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Delightfully energetic, this will inspire young pianists

A bright, colorful introduction to a beloved instrument.

Rusch pairs up with Caldecott honoree Priceman (Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin!, 1995) to produce this biography of the white Italian musician and craftsman Bartolomeo Cristofori. In 1688, Fernando de Medici chose Cristofori to build and restore harpsichords and other instruments. Priceman’s signature artwork is a perfect match for the words, which emphasize Cristofori’s desire for a keyboard instrument capable of the nuance of the violins he hears at the opera and the color he sees in paintings. Banners defining musical terms run across the tops of pages. Throughout are visual and textual cues to the meanings of those terms. One page is headed “pianissimo (very soft),” while the narrative reads, “a hush envelops the room….Feet pad across the room. Cloth rustles. Sand falls silently through an hourglass.” Here, soft purple watercolors surround the words, and a sleeping cat curls around the hourglass. Horses “whinny, snort, and stamp as a young prince and his entourage spring from the carriages to the cobblestones” in reflection of “crescendo (becoming louder).” By 1700, Cristofori’s new instrument, the pianoforte, is complete. Colorful waves of sound pour out of the opened instrument. Source material for the story is effectively embedded in the pages. Extensive backmatter further illuminates the text and invites readers to listen to recordings of surviving and replica pianos.

Delightfully energetic, this will inspire young pianists . (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4484-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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