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


The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited.

Dancing is one of the most universal elements of cultures the world over.

In onomatopoeic, rhyming text, Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children: “Tappity Tap / Fingers Snap,” reads the rhyme on the double-page spread for flamenco; “Jiggity-Jig / Zig-zag-zig” describes Irish step dancing. The ballet pages stereotypically include only children in dresses or tutus, but one of these dancers wears hijab. Overall, children included are racially diverse and vary in gender presentation. Diaz’s illustrations show her background in animated films; her active child dancers generally have the large-eyed sameness of cartoon characters. The endpapers, with shoes and musical instruments, could become a matching game with pages in the book. The dances depicted are described at the end, including kathak from India and kuku from Guinea, West Africa. Unfortunately, these explanations are quite rudimentary. Kathak dancers use their facial expressions extensively in addition to the “movements of their hands and their jingling feet,” as described in the book. Although today kuku is danced at all types of celebrations in several countries, it was once done after fishing, an activity acknowledged in the illustrations but not mentioned in the explanatory text.

The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited. (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63592-142-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


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