105 Ways to Give a Book

Before There Was Mozart

I didn’t have time over the weekend to update the Books for Black History lists. I was busy making a short film with the Tohubohu team for the 48 Hour Film Project: Go Green. It was fun to do, but exhausting, so I’ll start off small with one new book for Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian.

Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier Saint-George
by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier Saint-GeorgeLet me get this out of the way. I do not like the title. Yes, I understand the need to quickly explain that Joseph Boulogne was a classical period musician of note, and that the shorthand to do that is invoke a Mozart comparison. But as someone who minored in music in college, the allusion annoys me the way children’s authors can’t stand that every fantasy book is lined up with Harry Potter. All right — got that out of my system.

The book itself is fascinating. Joseph Boulogne was born in the West Indies to a slave and her master. While many of these stories end in heartbreak, in this case Joseph was treated as a son by Guillaume-Pierre, and when the French nobleman returned home, be brought Joseph and his mother along. Joseph grew up there experiencing discrimination for his skin color, but also growing in musical talent as a violinist and composer. Given a title by his father, he was somewhat accepted in society, met the King and Queen of France, and had a tenuous connection to Mozart. Good stuff. The illustrations are bright, engaging, and altogether perfect for the story. I enjoyed the book, but do wonder about the audience. It certainly widens the range of topics available for Black History Month, but it will be hard to find a readership for a picture book on an obscure classical musician. Those who do venture a read will be rewarded with an interesting story.

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Shelly B said...

Glad to hear your thoughts...I didn't know about your music background! Got this one in the mail last week and after I read and review it, I'm passing it on to my music teacher at school. She will find great use for it during Black History Month.

Rosanne Parry said...

Oh I'm so glad to find this here! I'm doing a bunch of book and music events to celebrate Second Fiddle next month. I'll be doing some of them with Virginia Euwer Wolff who received a Silver Phoenix Award for The Mozart Season this year, and with Liz Rusch whose For the Love of Books and Music has already gotten rave reviews. It's a picture book bio of Anna Maria Mozart.

So glad to find a good companion title for these books. Also I'm trying to work out some bookstore and school visits in your area next fall. Since you have an interest in music I'll let you know if I'm in town.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Ooo. Sounds like a hidden treasure!

Saints and Spinners said...

I wasn't a music major in college, but I share your annoyance with the title. I will look for it, though. Merci.