THE HEROIC SYMPHONY

This companion to The Farewell Symphony (2000) and Pictures at an Exhibition (2003) melodramatically recounts the genesis of Beethoven’s Third Symphony. Unable to stave off his growing deafness, the young composer switches from renowned concert pianist to composer, casts about for inspiration (“Something great, someone heroic”) before selecting Napoleon. He labors over each movement in turn (“ ‘The indescribable joy of being alive!’ shouted Ludwig, banging out a few chords on the piano”), then nearly destroys his work (“I did not write my symphony for a tyrant!”) when Bonaparte declares himself Emperor. Though the faces in Kitchel’s illustrations are as wooden as the dialogue, Beethoven’s shock of black hair underscores his inner turmoil, and fanciful scenes will help unpracticed listeners visualize the scenarios behind the symphony’s movements. Focusing less on the composer’s entire career than on its watershed moment, this isn’t as illuminating as M.T. Anderson’s Handel: Who Knew What He Wanted (2001) or Mordicai Gerstein’s What Charlie Heard (2002), but it does fill in historical and musical background. (afterword, CD) (Picture book/nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-57091-509-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2004

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DORY STORY

Who is next in the ocean food chain? Pallotta has a surprising answer in this picture book glimpse of one curious boy. Danny, fascinated by plankton, takes his dory and rows out into the ocean, where he sees shrimp eating those plankton, fish sand eels eating shrimp, mackerel eating fish sand eels, bluefish chasing mackerel, tuna after bluefish, and killer whales after tuna. When an enormous humpbacked whale arrives on the scene, Danny’s dory tips over and he has to swim for a large rock or become—he worries’someone’s lunch. Surreal acrylic illustrations in vivid blues and red extend the story of a small boy, a small boat, and a vast ocean, in which the laws of the food chain are paramount. That the boy has been bathtub-bound during this entire imaginative foray doesn’t diminish the suspense, and the facts Pallotta presents are solidly researched. A charming fish tale about the one—the boy—that got away. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-88106-075-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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FIDDLIN' SAM

In a family memoir of the most affecting kind, readers are invited to a long-ago time in the Ozark Mountains and the story of a musician who owned “the clothes on his back and a fine old lionhead fiddle.” Fiddlin’ Sam is the inheritor of the peripatetic, minstrel’s life of his father, who taught Sam his art, saying, “This ain’t a gift, Son. It’s a loan. You gotta pass the music along.” Sam accepts the food that appreciative people give him, but politely refuses their offer of a bed. When a rattler bites him, Sam fears he has failed his calling; the music will die with him. In the feverish time that follows, someone takes care of him, a young man whom Sam hopes will take up the gift and carry it along—but the boy has other plans. In the years that follow, Sam meets another young man on the road who reminds him of the first one, and, indeed, is his son. Their path together lasts long enough for Sam to pass along his gift and its joys and burdens before he dies. An endpiece dedication allows readers to glimpse aspects of the story that are based in truth. A rhythmic refrain underscores the emotions of the story, and even acts as the vehicle of the ascension of Sam’s soul at death. Gerig’s watercolors deliver the scenic beauty of the region and carry their own version of a familial tribute. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1999

ISBN: 0-87358-742-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Rising Moon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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