“Reader’s Advisory” is a fancy library term that I managed to make my way through library school without hearing. It is what librarians do when you come up to the desk and say something like, “We’re going on a family vacation next week and want a book to listen to. What do you recommend?” or “I just finished reading the best series ever and I’m heartbroken. What should I read next?”
All the way last November, when I was at my state library conference, I went to a session on multi-type reader’s advisory. The idea with multi-type is that rather than just recommending books or movies, we put together a list with some of everything to fit the mood you’re in – ideally, books, movies, graphic novels, music, and, if we’re at the top of our game, even video games. My wonderful boss, Holly Hibner, has put together a few since we went to the session; I am just now getting around to it. To make things easy on myself, I’m going to start with something that feels easy to me, teen fantasy. (I think I’ve been playing with this very book in my mind since November. Yikes!)
The starting point
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman features a human girl who is half dragon, living in the human city. There’s a lot of tension between humans and dragons – the peace is fragile and crumbling. Other than the explicitly fantasy elements, the world feels like a very concrete 16th century, and Seraphina, a musician, plays instruments familiar to me from medieval and Renaissance music.
Hidden Voices by Pat Lowery Collins – for realistic fiction look at female musicians, this time in the eighteenth century
Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey – a more completely fantasy look at the music academy in a world with dragons
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunnant – A tale of a young woman involved with an artist in Renaissance Venice, this features some forbidden romance, mystery and politics, just as Seraphina does.
Music of the Renaissance by Giulio Ongaro – I’m not sure this would have the same kind of feeling as the novel, missing all the fictional elements.
Dragonology: the Complete book of Dragons by Dr. Ernest Drake – not the same kind of dragons, but definitely high on the cool factor. This is one my library keeps copies of in both the youth and teen departments.
Of course, what you really want here is Rachel Hartman’s out-of-print mini-comic series set in the same world, Amy Unbounded.
At the workshop, we were given a website, musicovery.com , where you can pick a point on a graph with different ends representing things like happy vs unhappy and high energy vs. low energy. I skipped all of that to look for music that featured some of the awesome authentic instruments that Seraphina played, considering the lute to be the equivalent of her oud.
La Rocque ‘n’ Roll: Popular Music of Renaissance France by the Baltimore Consort The Baltimore Consort has been performing early popular music since the early 1990s. This one seemed the closest to Seraphina’s music.
At the Sign of the Crumhorn: Flemish Songs and Dance Music from the Susato Music Books by Convivium Musicum Gothenburgense Crumhorns and sackbutts (and hurdy-gurdies) all make a peculiar buzzing, nasal sound that was beloved in popular and dance music in the Renaissance. This looks like a great example.
Stadtpfeiffer: Music of Renaissance Germany by Piffaro This one actually features a sackbut on the cover – it’s the one that looks like a trombone. If the dance music sounds like old Lutheran hymns, it’s because Luther stole the pop music of the era.
Henry V directed by Kenneth Branagh – it’s a classic, with at least some of the politics of Seraphina. I might be stretching here again. You could also try
The Borgias or Game of Thrones for historical or fantasy political epics.
Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon
How to Train Your Dragon
It’s not that hard to find games with dragons; it’s a bit harder to find ones where dragons aren’t the Evil Enemy, though there’s nothing quite like the nuanced relationship that humans and dragons have in the book. Not that I found, anyway.
I’m kind of feeling now that I might have cheated looking mostly at music, time period, and dragons rather than more nebulous feelings created by the book in the first place. Maybe next time. For right now, if you have any books, music, movies or games that you think would fit well with Seraphina, or if you have any thoughts on what I should tackle next for this type of project, let me know!