STRANGE MR. SATIE

The author of Handel, Who Knew What He Liked (2001) profiles another musical original: Erik Satie, surrealist composer and all-round oddball, a capricious, temperamental rule-breaker whose works reflect the dreamlike quality of his eccentric life. Mathers picks up on this theme, surrounding her deceptively formal-looking figure with bohemian companions, portraying his music as streams of small toys flying from a piano or birds, fish and less identifiable items replacing conventional notation. Readers will get a coherent picture of his career, which included collaborations with Picasso and Picabia, as well as his stormy relationship with Suzanne Valadon. He died relatively young, and is last seen, “a child-man dancing / with his umbrella, / joyfully spinning / and grinning, / alone” outside the chapel where his funeral, fittingly, clashed with a wedding. Anderson closes with notes on recommended books and pieces—good thing, as this portrait makes an irresistible invitation to discover a relatively little known, but profoundly influential, 20th-century artist. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03637-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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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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