Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Because Book Poster Image
Inspiring look at the life-changing power of music.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows all the things that go into putting on a symphony concert. Shows what it's like to attend a concert. Shows many of the different musicians and instruments that create an orchestra. Mentions "Ludwig" and "Franz," meaning Beethoven and Liszt. Shows what sheet music looks like. 

Positive Messages

Music can change your life. Sometimes your life can change direction after something happens to you by chance. Becoming a successful musician requires hard work, practice, luck. It takes efforts of lots of different people to put on a show. One thing leads to another. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the musicians portrayed are passionate, dedicated, hardworking. The little girl's aunt and uncle are kind, help introduce her to symphony  music. Gender and ethnic diversity among musicians, concert hall workers, audience. Man in audience is wearing a yarmulke; a woman is wearing a head scarf. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mo Willem's Because, illustrated by Amber Ren, traces how a little girl goes to her first symphony concert because her uncle got a cold and couldn't use his ticket, and how she was so inspired she ended up studying music and becoming a composer and conductor herself. The story shows how life-changing moments can happen by chance.

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What's the story?

BECAUSE starts with music by "a man named Ludwig" (Beethoven), which inspired "a man named Franz" (Liszt) to compose his own music. The story then shows causal connections continuing, with musicians forming an orchestra "because people wanted to hear Franz's beautiful music," an artist creating a poster for the orchestra's concert to sell tickets, the workers getting the concert hall ready, etc. And then 'because someone's uncle got a cold," someone's aunt had an extra ticket and took her niece to the concert. That little girl loved the music so much, she started studying music and learning to play various instruments, and through hard work and luck, she became a composer and conductor herself. She's invited to perform her music at the grand concert hall and plays a composition dedicated to her uncle, "because it was his ticket that brought her here." It's the world premiere of Symphony #1 "The Cold." "And that night, someone else was changed." 

Is it any good?

This lovely picture book shows both the life-changing power of music and the way chance encounters can influence a person's path in life. It also shows all the people involved in putting on a show, from the different musicians who make up the orchestra to the workers who hang the lights to the artist who designs the poster to advertise the show to the train conductor who lets people off at the concert hall. It underscores how inspiration, hard work, and luck all contribute to what someone ultimately does for a living. And in the simplest terms, it shows how one thing leads to another. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music's power to change lives as shown in Because. Has a song or a concert ever had a big effect on you, opening your eyes -- and ears -- to something new? What happened? 

  • Have you ever been to a concert by a symphony orchestra? What was it like?

  • How does the art in Because show music flowing through the air? Try drawing a picture that shows music being played or heard.

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