A triumphant story of bravery and defiance that will shock and inspire.

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    Best Books Of 2015

SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH AND THE SIEGE OF LENINGRAD

The epic tale of the siege of Leningrad and its native son, composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose seventh symphony comforted, consoled, and rallied a population subjected to years of unspeakable suffering.

Anderson vividly chronicles the desperate lengths residents went to, including acts of cannibalism, to survive the Wehrmacht’s siege, a 3-year-long nightmare that left more than 1 million citizens dead. The richly layered narrative offers a keen-eyed portrait of life in the paranoid, ruthlessly vengeful Stalinist Soviet Union, its citizens living under a regime so capriciously evil that one could be heralded a hero of the motherland one day and condemned as a traitor the next. The storytelling is captivating, describing how Shostakovich began composing the symphony under relentless bombardment in Leningrad and later finished it in Moscow, its triumphant performance in Leningrad during the siege, and how it rallied worldwide sympathy for Russia’s plight. Music is at the heart of the story. As Anderson writes in the prologue, “it is a story about the power of music and its meanings,” and he communicates them with seeming effortlessness in this brilliantly written, impeccably researched tour de force.

A triumphant story of bravery and defiance that will shock and inspire. (photos, author’s note, sources notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6818-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Though not the most balanced, an enlightening look back for the queer future.

A QUEER HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

An adaptation for teens of the adult title A Queer History of the United States (2011).

Divided into thematic sections, the text filters LGBTQIA+ history through key figures in each era from the 1500s to the present. Alongside watershed moments like the 1969 Stonewall uprising and the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, the text brings to light less well-known people, places, and events: the 1625 free love colony of Merrymount, transgender Civil War hero Albert D.J. Cashier, and the 1951 founding of the Mattachine Society, to name a few. Throughout, the author and adapter take care to use accurate pronouns and avoid imposing contemporary terminology onto historical figures. In some cases, they quote primary sources to speculate about same-sex relationships while also reminding readers of past cultural differences in expressing strong affection between friends. Black-and-white illustrations or photos augment each chapter. Though it lacks the teen appeal and personable, conversational style of Sarah Prager’s Queer, There, and Everywhere (2017), this textbook-level survey contains a surprising amount of depth. However, the mention of transgender movements and activism—in particular, contemporary issues—runs on the slim side. Whereas chapters are devoted to over 30 ethnically diverse gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer figures, some trans pioneers such as Christine Jorgensen and Holly Woodlawn are reduced to short sidebars.

Though not the most balanced, an enlightening look back for the queer future. (glossary, photo credits, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8070-5612-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Conversational, sometimes playful—not the sort of book that would survive vetting by school-system censors these days, but a...

A LITTLE HISTORY OF THE WORLD

A lovely, lively historical survey that takes in Neanderthals, Hohenzollerns and just about everything in between.

In 1935, Viennese publisher Walter Neurath approached Gombrich, who would go on to write the canonical, bestselling Story of Art, to translate a history textbook for young readers. Gombrich volunteered that he could do better than the authors, and Neurath accepted the challenge, provided that a completed manuscript was on his desk in six weeks. This book, available in English for the first time, is the happy result. Gombrich is an engaging narrator whose explanations are charming if sometimes vague. (Take the kid-friendly definition of truffles: “Truffles,” he says, “are a very rare and special sort of mushroom.” End of lesson.) Among the subjects covered are Julius Caesar (who, Gombrich exults, was able to dictate two letters simultaneously without getting confused), Charlemagne, the American Civil War, Karl Marx, the Paris Commune and Kaiser Wilhelm. As he does, he offers mostly gentle but pointed moralizing about the past, observing, for instance, that the Spanish conquest of Mexico required courage and cunning but was “so appalling, and so shaming to us Europeans that I would rather not say anything more about it,” and urging his young readers to consider that perhaps not all factory owners were as vile as Marx portrayed them to be, even though the good owners “against their conscience and their natural instincts, often found themselves treating their workers in the same way”—which is to say, badly.

Conversational, sometimes playful—not the sort of book that would survive vetting by school-system censors these days, but a fine conception and summarizing of the world’s checkered past for young and old.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2005

ISBN: 0-300-10883-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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