When all the bands in the kingdom sound horrible, the king takes drastic action.
Individually, each musician isn't awful, but when they play together, it's excruciating. Even the royal musicians produce an unbearable sound. The king issues a proclamation: "NO MUSIC." A little piper named Piffaro decides to leave and absconds with an old dray horse, which he calls Charlemagne. On the road, they nearly collide with a mandolin player named Espresso, the fastest musician in the kingdom. He hitches a ride; later, their sensitive ears pick up the soft strains of a harp. On the side of the road sits Serena the Silent; she and her harp hop on Piffaro's wagon as well. The trio becomes a quartet when it encounters Fortissimo, a sackbut player recently voted the loudest musician in Bombardy. They're nearly away when an elderly slowpoke blocks their progress. His name is Lugubrio, plays the contrabass and increases the wagon's load to five. All play as they ride, but they are oblivious to the others. It takes wise Charlemagne to pull them up short, and get them to work together. The result is harmony. And who should ride by and hear this newly melodious band but the king? This nifty riff is greatly enhanced by Manders' bright gouache-and–colored-pencil illustrations, which give each player a distinct personality, and onomatopoeic instrument sounds that literally filled the air.
Undeniably a lesson, it is delivered with a sense of fun; a helpful author's note describes each instrument. (Picture book. 3-6)