Music Books for Children: Composers/Compositions



Multiple Composers

celenza
Catherine Wolff Kendall, Stories of women composers for young musicians. Toadwood, 1993; ISBN-13: 978-0961087821

"Biographies of 31 women composers with their portraits, calendar of birthdays, and list of recordings."

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Johann Sebastian Bach

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Anna Celenza, Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2004; ISBN-13: 978-1570915109

"This fictional account surrounding the composition and naming of one of Bach's most famous musical works tells the story of Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, an orphan who is one of the composer's students..."

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From School Library Journal: (Kindergarten-Grade 3) This fictional account surrounding the composition and naming of one of Bach's most famous musical works tells the story of Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, an orphan who is one of the composer's students. When the boy becomes a servant for Count Keyserlingk, he has no time to practice during the day, so he practices in the middle of the night. One night, the Count hears him and urges him to learn a new piece every week; first one filled with energy, then a canon, then a piece "with everything." Desperate, the boy turns to his teacher, who plays his "Variations," a complex composition that has a musical "riddle" hidden within it. The child practices it faithfully and by the end of the week, he plays it for the Count, who is so delighted that he names Goldberg the Court's official harpsichordist and often calls out to him, "Goldberg! Play your variations!" A note explains that the origins of the piece are unclear, but it is known that Bach visited the count in Dresden in 1741 and shortly thereafter Goldberg began playing this composition. This accessible and readable story will lead young readers to find out more about both Bach and his young student. The watercolor illustrations, filled with period touches, give the lad an appealing personality as he struggles with his chores and his music. The four cherubs who adorn many of the pages add to the 18th-century tone as they echo both the sentiments and the music on the page. -Jane Marino, Bronxville Public Library, NY

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winter
Jeanette Winter, Sebastian: A Book about Bach. Silver Whistle, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0152006297

"Winter combines a spare text and colorful illustrations to capture her subject's personality. In a folkloric tone, she presents the outlines of the composer's youth, family, marriage, and work..."

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From School Library Journal: (Pre-School-Grade 3) As she did so effectively in My Name Is Georgia (Harcourt, 1998), Diego (Knopf, 1994), and Josefina (Harcourt, 1996), Winter combines a spare text and colorful illustrations to capture her subject's personality. In a folkloric tone, she presents the outlines of the composer's youth, family, marriage, and work. The author clearly relates how music dominated Bach's life as compositions filled his head and he worked feverishly to get them down on paper. She also succeeds at conveying the complexity of composition: "He heard one melody for the violin, one for the trumpet, one for the flute, and one for the oboe." Winter's palette is dominated by the blue, teal, and violet that are used to border each page, although within the illustrations, they take on a deeper, more vibrant shade. Waving ribbons of color represent the music throughout the illustrations. Although few details of the composer's life are included, readers will sense his determination to succeed. Most of all, they will understand the importance of his music to the world. -Jane Marino, Scarsdale Public Library, NY

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Ludwig van Beethoven

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Anna Celenza, The Heroic Symphony. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2005; ISBN-13: 978-1570915093

"As in their previous collaborations, Celenza brings a famous musician to life while Kitchel provides energetic art. This time, they present the story of Beethoven's despair over his deafness and his eventual triumph as he gives himself over to the symphony that highlights his struggle to survive as a musician..."

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From School Library Journal: (Kindergarten-Grade 4) As in their previous collaborations, Celenza brings a famous musician to life while Kitchel provides energetic art. This time, they present the story of Beethoven's despair over his deafness and his eventual triumph as he gives himself over to the symphony that highlights his struggle to survive as a musician. Originally written as a celebration of Napoleon's victory, the four movements were meant to reflect Bonaparte's courage and heroism. Soon after Beethoven completed them, however, he discovered the great warrior's treachery in declaring himself Emperor of France. The composer ripped a copy of the score he had intended as a gift, but his friend Ferdinand Ries prevented him from destroying the composition. The Bonaparte Symphony was later renamed the Eroica, or Heroic Symphony. Celenza's research into the details of this piece of music reflects her scholarly background; she unearthed primary-source material that is described in an author's note. The stylized watercolor-and-ink paintings evoke the mood of each movement; for the first one, Napoleon's horse seems to jump right out of the musical score. To reflect the French origins of the symphony, Kitchel backs most of the illustrations with a toile design. Although there are many books on this composer, such as Barbara Nichol's Beethoven Lives Upstairs (Orchard, 1994) and Mike Venezia's Ludwig van Beethoven (Children's, 1996), this one, with its emphasis on one segment of his life, is a worthwhile purchase. -Laurie Edwards, West Shore School District, Camp Hill, PA

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nichol
Barbara Nichol, Beethoven Lives Upstairs. Orchard Paperback, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0531071182

"When young Christopher's family takes Ludwig van Beethoven as an upstairs tenant, their home life becomes noisy and chaotic. Tortured by blinding headaches and diminishing eyesight, frustrated by deafness, Beethoven rips off his constraining clothes in the throes of composition..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 3-5) When young Christopher's family takes Ludwig van Beethoven as an upstairs tenant, their home life becomes noisy and chaotic. Tortured by blinding headaches and diminishing eyesight, frustrated by deafness, Beethoven rips off his constraining clothes in the throes of composition. He pours pitchers of water over his head and removes the legs from his four pianos on which he pounds relentlessly, regardless of the hour. The boy, grieving over his father's recent death, writes to his uncle, a music student in another city, asking him to rescue him and his mother from their plight. In the exchange of letters over several years, Christopher comes to understand Beethoven's torments, overlook his extreme behavior, and even befriend him. Climaxing with the boy's attendance at the first performance of the composer's Ninth Symphony, this realistic, touching picture book about the musician's life endears this irascible genius to readers. The richly colored paintings are outstanding; the exterior scenes of Beethoven and Christopher that are bathed in accented light and gold tones are exceptional. A praiseworthy effort. -Barbara Peklo Abrahams, Oneida City Schools, Manlius, NY

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Antonín Dvořák

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Joseph Horowitz, Dvořák in America: In Search of the New World. Cricket Books, 2003; ISBN-13: 978-0812626810

"This is an engaging account of the years the Bohemian composer spent in the U.S. during the early 1890s, teaching at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City and composing his New World symphony and shorter works..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 6 and up) This is an engaging account of the years the Bohemian composer spent in the U.S. during the early 1890s, teaching at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City and composing his New World symphony and shorter works. The development of Dvorák's controversial views-that a truly distinct American music would be based on African-American spirituals and "plantation songs," and on Native American music-is discussed in detail, as is the attitude of adherents to the Germanic school of classical music toward what they considered his peasant sensibilities. In an afterword, Horowitz, likening his book to a conductor's interpretation of a piece of music, states that some of the incidents are his inventions or re-creations, and that "the words I have put in [Dvorák's] mouth" are based on other writings about the composer. The fictionalized incidents, feelings, thoughts, and dialogue give the book a friendlier, more intimate tone than a more conventional biography might evoke. The 30 sometimes-dark period photographs include city scenes and portraits. Many of the primary sources on which Horowitz's research was based can be found on a DVD, From the New World: A Celebrated Composer's American Odyssey, created by Robert Winter and Peter Bogdanoff in tandem with this title. A welcome addition to music and biography collections. -Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA

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Duke Ellington

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Andrea Davis Pinkney, Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra. Jump at the Sun, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0786801787

"A royal introduction to the piano prince. Told in a swingy conversational tone and highlighting the musician's childhood, early ragtime days, and stellar rise to popularity, playing at the Cotton Club and, later, Carnegie Hall, this is a jazzy treat..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 1-5) A royal introduction to the piano prince. Told in a swingy conversational tone and highlighting the musician's childhood, early ragtime days, and stellar rise to popularity, playing at the Cotton Club and, later, Carnegie Hall, this is a jazzy treat. It is rare to find text that describes music so well. Phrases such as "sassy ride on his cymbal," "musical stream," and "purple dash of brass" carry the auditory experiences of the Duke's music right off the page. Young readers will find more than just a few facts here. They will learn what Duke Ellington did for the jazz world, how his music was played, and the legacy he left behind. Brian Pinkney's distinctive scratchboard, gouache and oil paintings are a harmonious complement to Andrea Pinkney's text. Bright, wild colors on soft neon backgrounds are beautifully balanced with black-and-white highlights. It is the blending of words, symbols, and pictures that bring this subject to life. A page of biographical information and impressive source notes conclude the presentation. This book swings. Don't miss it. -Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY

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George Gershwin

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Anna Celenza, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2006; ISBN-13: 978-1570915567

"The creation of Gershwin's 1924 masterpiece is the subject of this picture book. The story, rendered in watercolor-and-ink caricatures, opens in the legendary pool hall ..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 1-5) The creation of Gershwin's 1924 masterpiece is the subject of this picture book. The story, rendered in watercolor-and-ink caricatures, opens in the legendary pool hall where George's brother Ira discovers a newspaper announcement for a concert at which his sibling's new jazz concerto is to be featured–only it hasn't been written yet. After the disbelief subsides and the conductor who placed the ad is confronted, the musical genius embarks on a journey in which doubt, inspiration, and frustration overlay frenzied periods of intense work. Celenza's tale, complete with invented dialogue, brings the composer to life. The text incorporates musical ideas to discover the klezmer howl of the opening clarinet, the blues, and the love song for New York in the main theme. An author's note contains Gershwin's words describing the rhythm of the train ride that freed his mental block, providing ideas for content, style, and direction. Kitchel's sensitivity to this source material is especially evident in her spread of multifaceted patterns and images, presented as cameos against a black background; they relate to the composer's concept of a musical kaleidoscope of America. An accompanying CD features Gershwin himself (courtesy of a piano roll). Pair this with Robert Burleigh's Langston's Train Ride (Scholastic, 2004) to compare how a trip on an iron horse affected another American artist from the same period. -Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

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Woody Guthrie

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Woody Guthrie, This Land Is Your Land. Little, Brown Young Readers, 1998; ISBN-13: 978-0316392150

"This effort is what great picture books are all about. Guthrie's familiar song is teamed with Jakobsen's oil paintings that evoke the 1920s and `30s, yet are still relevant today as, unfortunately, soup kitchens, burned-out lots, and homeless families are still very much a part of the American scene..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade K-6) This effort is what great picture books are all about. Guthrie's familiar song is teamed with Jakobsen's oil paintings that evoke the 1920s and `30s, yet are still relevant today as, unfortunately, soup kitchens, burned-out lots, and homeless families are still very much a part of the American scene. Double-page landscapes reflect the verses of the song and show the varied terrain of the United States. Interspersed between them are labeled vignettes that include song lyrics or quotes from Guthrie in the corners of each page. Children and adults can spend hours poring over these pages and enjoying the sights and shores, cities and towns, urban areas and the unsettled West that bring the song to life. The book ends with a short biography of the songwriter, photos and drawings of him and other folk singers of the era, a tribute by Pete Seeger, and the musical score. This is not just a celebration of Guthrie and his music. It will serve as a vehicle for classroom discussion on the Dust Bowl and the Depression and can also be used as a lead-in to a study of our country and its symbols. A book that's destined to become a favorite in libraries from coast to coast. -Susan Lissim, Dwight School, New York City

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George Frederick Handel

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M.T. Anderson, Handel, Who Knew What He LikedCandlewick, 2001; ISBN-13: 978-0763610463

"In this picture-book biography, both illustration and text are characterized by a saucy style, impeccable pacing, and a richness of content, and the two harmonize splendidly in a manner befitting the subject..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 1-5) In this picture-book biography, both illustration and text are characterized by a saucy style, impeccable pacing, and a richness of content, and the two harmonize splendidly in a manner befitting the subject. Anderson's words and anecdotes are well chosen, and his sense of timing heightens impact whether describing mischievous childhood antics of the classical composer (the boy smuggling a clavichord past unsuspecting parents) or solemn occasions (the circumstances surrounding the creation and performances of the Messiah). The author is also adept at conveying the spirit and flavor of Handel's music. Hawkes's highly textured acrylics manage to combine depth and drama with a great sense of fun. Double-page spreads display a shimmering River Thames during a performance of Water Music as well as ornate opera halls and drawing rooms. Close inspection of the scenes and the elaborately carved frames surrounding the text reveal comedic cameos. The attention to detail extends to a whimsical, scrolled Latin copyright message and graceful gold arabesques on the endpapers. Clear definitions of technical terms are embedded in decorative panels throughout. This performance is worthy of a standing ovation. -Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

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Franz Joseph Haydn

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Anna Celenza, The Farewell Symphony. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000; ISBN-13: 978-1570914065

"Celenza's story is a delightful introduction to Joseph Haydn, his "Farewell Symphony," and 18th-century court life. The composer asks Prince Nicholas if the homesick musicians might invite their families to join them at the summer palace in Hungary, and the answer is an emphatic and angry no..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 2-4) Celenza's story is a delightful introduction to Joseph Haydn, his "Farewell Symphony," and 18th-century court life. The composer asks Prince Nicholas if the homesick musicians might invite their families to join them at the summer palace in Hungary, and the answer is an emphatic and angry no. When the stay extends into late fall, the musicians again appeal to their royal music director, this time to convince the prince to return to Austria. Since words again fail to persuade him, Haydn decides to try music. His Symphony in F-sharp minor reflects the musicians' anger, sadness, and frustration, and finally moves Nicholas to return home. Based on true events, the story is well told and suitably illustrated with striking watercolor-and-ink cartoons with simple lines and exaggerated characterizations that convincingly convey a sense of the excess and finery of the period. The white-wigged musicians are bathed in fiery crimson as they play the angry first movement and the tearful prince is covered in a wash of blue during the sorrowful second passage. There are notes on both 18th-century symphonic form and instruments as well as on the events and personalities in the story. An entertaining musical history and a well-produced package. -Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ

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Charles Ives

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Mordecai Gerstein, What Charlie Heard. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002; ISBN-13: 978-0374382926

"A prominent 20th-century American composer is brought to life through this biography in picture-book form. Young Charlie always listened to the sounds around him and tried to re-create them as he started writing music, whether it was a cheering crowd or a brass band parading through the town on the Fourth of July..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grades 3-6) A prominent 20th-century American composer is brought to life through this biography in picture-book form. Young Charlie always listened to the sounds around him and tried to re-create them as he started writing music, whether it was a cheering crowd or a brass band parading through the town on the Fourth of July. However, his work wasn't taken seriously until late in his life when it was accepted as a new form of music called Art Music. The cleverly drafted illustrations show how the many sounds combined in Charlie's head to form one musical idea. Sounds in different colored typeface, from ducks quacking, fire engines clanging, and trumpets "tatatating," appear over the energetic art, and readers can almost hear the cacophony of life. In one of the most memorable scenes, two marching bands, one colored in blue and the other in yellow, move toward each other playing different music with the myriad sounds combining in a rainbow of colors above their heads. The local residents can be seen in the background with their hands over their ears. Older children, especially those with some musical training, will come away with a good understanding of Ives and his work. This is an excellent purchase for libraries looking to develop their music collections on a subject about which little has been published. -Lisa Mulvenna, Clinton-Macomb Public Library, Clinton Township, MI

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Hans Krása

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Tony Kushner, Brundibar. Hyperion, 2003; ISBN-13:978-0786809042

"A picture book based on a 1938 Czech opera, originally performed by the children of Terezin. A brother and sister try to get milk for their sick mother..."

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From School Library Journal: (Kindergarten and up) A picture book based on a 1938 Czech opera, originally performed by the children of Terezin. A brother and sister try to get milk for their sick mother. They sing for coins in the town square, but Brundibar the organ grinder drowns out their words with his "teeth-chattery bone-rattley horrible song." Pepicek and Aninku then join voices with 300 other children and earn enough coins to fill their "soon-to-be-milkbucket." The playful language, with occasional rhyme and alliteration, is a perfect match for Sendak's spirited young heroes. The illustrations reflect varied undertones of a powerful story that works on different levels, including many references to the Holocaust. Scenes in the town show rich adults ignoring the desperate siblings, while other children also suffer from hunger. A banner matches a sign that covered the gates of Auschwitz, and several townsfolk wear yellow Stars of David. Brundibar vaguely resembles Hitler, particularly in one scene where he appears, huge and purple faced, with a clenched fist. A wordless spread showing grieving parents is poignant in itself, but tragic within the Holocaust context. Most kids won't get the literal references, but will respond directly to the images of the ominous, yet hopeful world depicted. In the end everyone sings triumphantly that "the wicked never win" and "our friends make us strong," but a final scribbled message from Brundibar promises that he'll be back. This is an ambitious picture book that succeeds both as a simple children's story and as a compelling statement against tyranny. -Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR

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Gian Carlo Menotti

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Gian Carlo Menotti, Amahl and the Night Visitors. Harper Collins, 1986; ISBN-13: 978-0688054267

"The honored composer tells the story of his most famous opera, inspired by his own miraculous recovery from lameness as a child. A poor, crippled boy Amahl and his mother are dazzled by the three kings..."

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From Publishers Weekly: (Grade 2-6) The honored composer tells the story of his most famous opera, inspired by his own miraculous recovery from lameness as a child. A poor, crippled boy Amahl and his mother are dazzled by the three kings on the way to Bethlehem on the first Christmas Eve. Amahl's mother welcomes the royal sojourners who rest in the small, bare house where love and faith work miracles during the night. Wonders appear to mesmerize the reader on every page, glorified by Lemieux's paintings. In color, in feeling, the illustrations are so right that one all but sees and hears the opera in performance. Menotti's wit and reverence are reflected in the artist's visions, creating a classic Christmas book.

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Olivier Messiaen

Jennifer Bryant
Jennifer Bryant, Music for the End of Time. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; Tra edition, 2005; ISBN-13: 978-0802852298

A children's picturebook based on the true story of French composer Olivier Messiaen

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Music for the End of Time is a children's picturebook based on the true story of French composer Olivier Messiaen, who was captured by the Germans during World War II and sent to a prison camp in Gorlitz (now part of Poland). Despite the bleak living conditions, he received the gift of a small miracle - the opportunity to write music again. With the aid of three fellow musicians also taken prisoner, the song of a beautiful nightingale, and the permission of a German officer, he was able to compose and play the now-famous "Quartet for the End of Time", in a performance appreciated like no other by his fellow prisoners. The emotionally touching pastel illustrations add the perfect quality to this simple story about keeping hope alive in the darkness.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Anne Gatti, The Magic Flute. Chronicle Books, 1998; ISBN-13: 978-0811810036

"A stunningly illustrated, well-written retelling of one of Mozart's most beloved works..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 4 and up) A stunningly illustrated, well-written retelling of one of Mozart's most beloved works. This operatic fairy tale is related in an elegant, clear tone in 15 scenes; most have a single page of text and one facing full-page painting. This technique breaks the rather complicated story into easy-to-follow pieces. Malone's soft oil paintings are full of light; stylized but warm, they precisely catch the flavor of Mozart's vision. Story and pictures are lovely, fresh, and rich, but it is the enclosed CD with 16 selections coded to each page of the book that make this a unique and appealing offering. This reading-plus-listening package is almost as good as being in the audience. Libraries may encounter problems circulating a book with a CD tucked in the back, but this a special item and it deserves a place on the music shelves of most libraries. A beautiful treat for the eyes, the ears, and the imagination. -Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY

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sis
Peter Sis, Play, Mozart, Play! Greenwillow, 2006; ISBN-13: 978-0061121814

"Recognizing his son's talent at a very young age, Mozart's stern father resolutely turned him into a child sensation! The facts of the musician's childhood are familiar to many, but what sets this biographical picture book apart is its skill in introducing a world master to children in a way that is emotionally resonant..."

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From School Library Journal: (Pre-School-Grade 2) Recognizing his son's talent at a very young age, Mozart's stern father resolutely turned him into a child sensation! The facts of the musician's childhood are familiar to many, but what sets this biographical picture book apart is its skill in introducing a world master to children in a way that is emotionally resonant, easily understood, and remarkably indelible. Sís unerringly chooses details that will have the most relevance for his audience and then selects the cleverest means of illustrating them. The cover depicts the child Mozart playing the piano by turning handsprings on the keys, simultaneously playing and playing. His father, who dominated his life, is represented in dark silhouette, his authoritarian finger raised, looming over a tiny boy whose feet do not even touch the floor as he plays. Mozart's triumphant childhood concert tours through Europe are presented in trademark Sís fashion, each city painted in miniature within a bubble superimposed on a map; the royalty before whom he played are depicted in small decorative fans. On most spreads, Mozart's shock of red hair and bright red vest give the diminutive prodigy the most visual weight and render him conspicuous. Illustrations give a hint of a unique boy who, despite a childhood of narrow restrictions, was released by the freedom he found in his music and his imagination. The clear, brief, readable text is augmented by a biographical afterword. -Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Old Greenwich, CT

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Modest Mussorgsky

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Anna Celenza, Pictures at an Exhibition. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2003; ISBN-13: 978-1570914928

"Celenza brings to life three Russian friends – composer Modest Mussorgsky, architect Victor Hartmann, and art critic Vladimir Stasov. When Hartmann dies, Mussorgsky is plunged into despair and cannot create music..."

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From School Library Journal: (Kindergarten-Grade 4) From the author and illustrator team of The Farewell Symphony (Charlesbridge, 2000) comes a new gem for music lovers. Celenza brings to life three Russian friends – composer Modest Mussorgsky, architect Victor Hartmann, and art critic Vladimir Stasov. When Hartmann dies, Mussorgsky is plunged into despair and cannot create music. Concerned about him, Stasov prods him into attending a posthumous exhibit of Victor's artwork. The paintings inspire the composer's musical tribute to his friend, "Pictures at an Exhibition." The story is based on many primary-source documents – correspondence, an autobiographical essay, and an obituary – but Celenza weaves in a depth of emotion that makes these individuals' lives unforgettable. This same attention to detail is evident in Kitchel's illustrations; not only does the artist capture the energy and movement of the music in her vibrant watercolor-and-ink illustrations, but she also confines them within symbolic borders of traditional Russian and Ukrainian folk-art motifs. They harmonize well with the accompanying CD recording that includes both piano and orchestral versions of Mussorgsky's famous composition.-Laurie Edwards, West Shore School District, Camp Hill, PA

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Sergei Prokofiev

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Janet Schulman, Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the WolfKnopf Books, 2004; ISBN-13: 978-0375824302

"This musical fantasy about a disobedient boy who leaves the safety of the garden for the unknown world of the meadow, cleverly conquering the danger he encounters, has been a childhood favorite since 1936..."

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From School Library Journal: (PreSchool-Grade 3) This musical fantasy about a disobedient boy who leaves the safety of the garden for the unknown world of the meadow, cleverly conquering the danger he encounters, has been a childhood favorite since 1936. An opening page introduces the characters, naming and depicting the instrument associated with each one. Prokofiev purists, however, will have issues with this retelling. The text is much longer, much of it hammering home the obvious (that the wolf is dangerous) or providing unnecessary background (the content of grandfather's dream). This extraneous verbiage leaves less room for the music to spin the story. It is the ending, though, that will prove most troubling to longtime fans. This wolf is a pathetic captive, begging to go home, feeling guilty about his deed; the hunters are nervous Nellies; grandfather has changed his tune from paternal skepticism to pride; and… yes, the duck is coughed out as the wolf is returned to the forest. The impact of the drama is considerably lessened. Malone's illustrations are well matched to the story, evoking a somewhat surreal and sometimes humorous world with a Russian flavor. A serviceable CD, recorded by the Cincinnati Pops and narrated by Peter Thomas, is included. Erna Voigt's faithful rendition (Godine, 1979; o.p.) set a standard for this story that is hard to beat. -Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

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Chevalier Saint-George

brewster
Hugh Brewster, The Other Mozart: The Life of the Chevalier Saint-George. Abrams, 2006; ISBN-13: 978-0810957206

"This swashbuckling biography of a multitalented musician in Revolutionary France will leave readers wondering why they'd never heard of the man. Born into slavery in Haiti..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 4–8) This swashbuckling biography of a multitalented musician in Revolutionary France will leave readers wondering why they'd never heard of the man. Born into slavery in Haiti, Saint-George distinguished himself in France as a composer, violinist, swordsman, colonel, prisoner, diplomat—and even an accomplished ice skater. Brewster relies heavily on the only English-language biography of Saint-George to reconstruct his unusual life, but also recognizes more recent scholarship in his author's note and includes a detailed list of recommended resources in a variety of formats. Period reproductions and drawings appear throughout, but at the heart of the book is Velasquez's original artwork. His moody paintings capture Saint-George raising his baton to cue the orchestra or drawing back his sword to parry a blow. The book features mini-biographies of other musicians and detailed time lines of the French Revolution and the life of Marie Antoinette, making it the perfect complement to units on the French and American Revolutions. The engaging narrative supplies delicious detail about life in Europe in the late 1700s, and the elegant design makes it the kind of picture book that even high school students will pick up. -Emily R. Brown, Providence Public Library, RI

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Camille Saint-Saens

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Barrie C. Turner, Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens. Henry Holt & Co., 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0805061802

"Glitzy and exciting packaging is what this book has going for it. Turner has written new commentary for Saint-Saens's music, accompanied by a full-length, music-only CD, cleverly designed to fit into a plastic holder..."

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From School Library Journal: (Pre-school-Grade 2) Glitzy and exciting packaging is what this book has going for it. Turner has written new commentary for Saint-Saens's music, accompanied by a full-length, music-only CD, cleverly designed to fit into a plastic holder. In addition to offering one-page commentaries on the 14 sections of this famous musical work, Turner gives basic education on the orchestra used for the composition and helpful hints on how to listen for the distinctive animal sounds made by certain instruments. The text is serviceable, but the tone is condescending at times. "Do you think the elephant enjoys dancing? Do you think he knows that he can't dance very well?" Finer, more humorous commentary is available on the CD "Classical Zoo" (Telarc, 1997), with Itzhak Perlman as narrator and new poems by Bruce Adolphe, but then, it is only the recording. Practicality and management of the two resources in one are considerations for librarians, but Carnival of the Animals, while not perfect, is one way to get young children to listen to and absorb classical music. Williams's full-page and spot illustrations are colorful and fanciful, adding another dimension to the presentation. -Mollie Bynum, formerly at Chester Valley Elementary School, Anchorage, AK

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Erik Satie

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M.T. Anderson, Strange Mr. Satie. Viking, 2003; ISBN-13: 978-0670036370

"A splendid alliance of topic, text, and illustration produces a hauntingly compelling biography. Erik Satie was not suited to his times; he battled a "terrible temper" and wrote music that was so unusual that it eluded popularity..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 3-6) A splendid alliance of topic, text, and illustration produces a hauntingly compelling biography. Erik Satie was not suited to his times; he battled a "terrible temper" and wrote music that was so unusual that it eluded popularity. After years of struggle, at age 39, he returned to school to learn the rules of music "so he could break them." In 1924, he collaborated with painter Francis Picabia on a ballet entitled Cancelled that included a movie, a cannon, and a camel. Shortly after its success, Satie died. Written with respect and compassion, this offering is an ideal introduction to a unique individual who had a significant influence on music. Mathers's illustrations are superb in their crisp, colorful clarity. The period, place, and bohemian brilliance of Satie's life are every bit as fascinating visually as textually. Though not for every reader, this picture-book biography should be embraced by anyone who cherishes the uncommon. -Jody McCoy, The Bush School, Seattle, WA

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Clara Wieck Schumann

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Susanna Reich, Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso. Clarion Books, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0395891193

"A thorough, well-researched, and creatively illustrated biography of a child prodigy. Clara Wieck was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1819. Her troubled yet accomplished childhood is related in detail..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 5-8) A thorough, well-researched, and creatively illustrated biography of a child prodigy. Clara Wieck was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1819. Her troubled yet accomplished childhood is related in detail, as is her courtship and marriage to composer Robert Schumann, a student of her tyrannical father. Reich gives ample attention to their life together, including their many children, and also writes of Robert's eventual battle with mental illness. The book also offers descriptions of the Schumanns' many friendships with other composers and musicians of the day, including Brahms, Liszt, and Mendelssohn. The rich, full life of this remarkable woman is illuminated by excerpts from letters written by her and those close to her as well as excerpts from her diaries. Black-and-white illustrations include many portraits and photographs of her and her family as well as programs and advertisements from her performances. A fine complement to Barbara Allman's Her Piano Sang (Carolrhoda, 1996), which is for slightly younger readers. -Carol Fazioli, The Brearley School, New York, NY

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Peter Tchaikovsky

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Esther Kalman, Tchaikovsky Discovers America. Orchard, 1995; ISBN-13:978-0531068946

"A charming tale told in diary form by a wealthy young girl of Russian descent. She is named Eugenia after Tchaikovsky's opera, Eugene Onegin, which her parents adore..."

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From School Library Journal: (Grade 3-5) A charming tale told in diary form by a wealthy young girl of Russian descent. She is named Eugenia after Tchaikovsky's opera, Eugene Onegin, which her parents adore. They take her to see the composer conduct a performance of his own music at Carnegie Music Hall; several days later, traveling to Niagara Falls, she recognizes him in the train's dining car. She shyly approaches him and they have a glorious conversation. Her diary entries record Tchaikovsky's demeanor, gentle nature, and his loneliness in America. Although the story is fictional, it is historically accurate and captures the tenor of the times. Eugenia's shy and precious character is pleasant and intimate. The oil paintings are absolutely luscious and give the text a rich, formal feeling; the three double-spread illustrations are spectacular. Fine historical fiction that enhances the discovery of a great composer for youngsters. -Barbara Peklo Abrahams, Oneida City Schools, Manlius, NY

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Antonio Lucio Vivaldi

Janice Shefelman
Janice Shefelman, I, Vivaldi. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008; ISBN: 978-0802853189

"In this dynamic picture-book biography, told as if by Vivaldi himself, the famous musician's energetic personality and steadfast dedication to music come alive."

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Despite his mother's vow for him to become a priest, young Vivaldi is only interested in music. He soon grows from a feisty boy who wants to play the violin into a stubborn young man who puts his musical training ahead of his studies for priesthood. Beautiful, ornate artwork portrays the spirit and splendor of Vivaldi's hometown, Venice. A historical note, musical score, and glossary will help readers more fully appreciate Vivaldi's life and musical genius. anice and Tom Shefelman have collaborated on several children's books, among them A Peddler's Dream (Houghton Mifflin), a Reading Rainbow selection, and Sophie's War (Eakin Press), a historical novel. The Shefelmans life in Austin, Texas.

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