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From the Little Stories of Great Composers series

Slight and frustratingly incomplete.

Minim, a mouse who loves both cheese and music, encounters the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi.

In 19th-century Venice, Minim has a narrow escape in Vivaldi’s music school, where he has been sent to exchange a coin for a child’s baby tooth. Even without knowing that in Italy the tooth fairy employs a small mouse, young U.S. readers will be charmed. The night of this story is dark and cold, and Minim (the British term for a half-note) has more errands to do, but this mouse does love music. Lingering to read the child’s thank-you note imperils him when he is noticed by the cat. But fortunately, when the orchestra suddenly strikes up, the cat is more interested in the music than the mouse. Lafrance’s drawings accentuate the gray of the night and the institution and the small size of the mouse compared to its surroundings. (He is depicted with near-human proportions on the cover but is considerably smaller in interior illustrations.) All humans are shown as White. An accompanying CD includes the story, ably narrated by Colm Feore, and, curiously, only two of the three movements of Vivaldi’s “Winter,” from The Four Seasons. The backmatter includes the entire text of the winter sonnet and reveals that Vivaldi was choirmaster and concertmaster at a girls orphanage. He composed much of his music for his pupils and the orchestra of that institution (though not the selections accompanying this title). This is the third in a music-appreciation series which includes visits to Mozart and Tchaikovsky as well.

Slight and frustratingly incomplete. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-2-924774-84-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: The Secret Mountain

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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