Once Upon a Tune: Stories from the Orchestra

Once Upon a Tune: Stories from the Orchestra

By Author / Illustrator

James Mayhew


Fairy Tales & Folk Tales

Age range(s)



Otter-Barry Books Ltd








Once Upon a Tune brings you six wonderful stories from many lands, all of which inspired great music. You can battle trolls with Peer Gynt if you go In The Hall of the Mountain King; grapple with a magic broom in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, meet the evil Witch of the North in The Swan of Tuonela, sail the seven seas with Sinbad the Sailor in Scheherazade; be a prince disguised as a bee in The Flight of the Bumblebee and become a fearless hero in William Tell.

The stories are excitingly told and stunningly illustrated by James Mayhew, who is famous for bringing live classical music, art and storytelling to families across the UK.

There are also Musical Notes where you can find out more about the stories and music, plus James's recommended recordings to download and listen to.



Once Upon a Tune is such a beautiful book, full of stunning illustrations. Six stories from around the world have been lovingly retold and each has been the inspiration for wonderful music. James is well known for combining his incredible artwork with storytelling and music and this book is a true celebration of the timeless appeal of a good story. The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Swan of Tuonela, The Flight of the Bumblebee, In the Hall of the Mountain King, Scheherazade and William Tell are the stories included, each dramatically illustrated with sections of musical notation forming part of the pictures, constantly reminding the reader of the link. I suspect this has been taken from the score of each piece!  The artwork is sure to inspire children to create collages or paintings of scenes from stories or perhaps to paint whilst listening to the music as James does so brilliantly.

There are musical notes from the author at the end of the book and recommended recordings of each piece for the reader to listen to, a wonderful resource for those who perhaps aren’t sure which version to try first. This makes the book a very useful resource for teachers as well, making for a special story time where the music and story can be combined, perhaps over a few sessions with plenty of discussion and enjoyment.

James has also made some short films introducing each story which are perfect for sharing. Once Upon a Tune is both beautifully designed and beautifully written- an absolute joy!

96 pages / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 7+


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