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The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George

by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-375-83600-8
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

In the spirit of their earlier collaboration (Young Pele: Soccer’s First Star, 2007) the husband-and-wife team introduce readers to the life of a relative unknown: Joseph Boulogne, often known as “the Black Mozart.” Boulonge was born on a plantation in the West Indies, the son of a Frenchman and a young Senegalese slave. Joseph was acknowledged and raised by both his parents, and his father encouraged his musical education in the Caribbean and Paris, where he became a darling of the French nobility. Despite the overt racism of pre-revolutionary France, he triumphed by dint of dedication and prodigious talent. James Ransome’s rich, brushy strokes of vivid color expand the engaging text even as they evoke both the lush landscapes of the Caribbean and glittering candlelit interiors. The book’s title is a bit of a puzzle. How many picture-book readers are familiar enough with the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to grasp that the life and impressive career of this Afro-Caribbean-French musical prodigy actually began before the sensation from Salzburg? That quibble notwithstanding, this is a story that needed to be told. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)