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Stephen Foster and His Little Dog Tray (and Study Guide)

Book by Opal Wheeler; Study Guide by Judy Wilcox
Zeezok Publishing

PO Box 1960
Elyria, OH 44036

Stephen Foster was a 19th-century American composer who wrote such songs as "My Old Kentucky Home," "Camptown Races," and "Oh, Susanna." You're children will be intrigued to learn about his life and his music in this easy chapter book.

Written for elementary aged children, this five-chapter biography of Stephen Foster presents his life from childhood all the way into adulthood. His love for music, his inspiration to write songs, and his path to popularity are all covered in an interesting story line. You are introduced to his family, his early love for music, his love for spirituals, and many of his acquaintances along the way.

The book is 172 pages long, but the font is large and there are plenty of nice black-and-white illustrations throughout. Musical scores and lyrics are included for several of Foster's songs as well (which is a very nice addition to the book)! A fast reader will not require much time at all to read the entire book.

For the parent, there is a 32-page study guide available to go with the book. It provides a map of Stephen Foster's travels mentioned in the book and a timeline of his life. For each chapter, there are comprehension questions to ask, character qualities to discuss, and additional historical information to fill in some of the details behind what your child reads in the book. An audio CD of the music from the book is available for purchase as well.

My children enjoyed reading this book, especially since Stephen Foster wrote our state song, "My Old Kentucky Home." Learning about the man behind the music was very interesting to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations and music that were interspersed throughout. I didn't use the study guide to its full capacity, but I appreciated the information it provided, especially the character quality discussion points.

Homeschooling families who already study composers or are hoping to add a composer study to their curriculum will enjoy this biography and study guide.

Product review by Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, April 2009

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