THE MYSTERIES OF BEETHOVEN’S HAIR

In 1827, a music student cut a lock of hair as a memento from the head of recently deceased Ludwig van Beethoven. In 1994, two Americans bought the hair for about $7,300 and had scientists subject it to forensic tests. This slim volume introduces Beethoven’s life, with an emphasis on his poor health and emotional problems, interspersing chapters about the hair’s journey from Vienna to Arizona and the scientific analysis. Although the lock’s history intersects with Denmark’s remarkable evacuation of Jews in World War II, the specifics of its journey are unknown, which leaches some of the excitement from the episode. One must also wonder how many child readers will be captivated by the revelation that Beethoven’s hair had extremely high levels of lead, much as the authors strain to build to a dramatic climax. Beethoven fans and music students may be intrigued, but overall the audience for this mildly interesting story will be limited. Black-and-white archival illustrations and photographs add little to the appeal. (authors’ note, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-57091-714-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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WAR AND THE PITY OF WAR

This startling and honest presentation of the horrors of war from Philip and McCurdy (American Fairy Tales, 1996, etc.) uses poems to thoughtfully balance the often romanticized vision of battle as an expression of bravery and honor. Terror, agony, mass slaughter, absurdity, pointlessness, and cruelty are the subjects of poets writing from ancient times to the present; there are also elegies for warriors, celebrating their brave deaths. Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, and Stephen Crane share pages with Anakreon and Simonides; there are contributors from Beirut and Bosnia, as well as from the death trains of WWII. Among McCurdy’s somber and realistic black-and-white illustrations are dead soldiers hanging on barbed wire, and a lone soldier standing in a graveyard, holding his head as he says goodbye to those who have died on the fields. The book makes vivid humankind’s innate darkness and makes war painful again. (indexes) (Poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1998

ISBN: 0-395-84982-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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GETTING TO FIRST BASE WITH DANALDA CHASE

Using baseball as a guide for dating, Beam, in his U.S. debut, hits a grand-slam. When seventh-grader Darcy Spillman becomes smitten with beautiful and popular Danalda Chase, he hopes to “get to first base” with her. Of course, first he has to ask her out, and Darcy isn’t sure Danalda even knows he exists. Normally, Darcy would turn to his Grandpa Spillman for advice, but Grandpa is showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s. Instead, he turns to the new girl, Kamna, who suggests that Darcy should try out for the Cheetahs, his middle school’s baseball team. That would certainly win Danalda’s favor. Unfortunately, when the two finally go out, Danalda lives up to her reputation of being superficial, leaving Darcy unimpressed. It turns out that it’s Kamna he’d rather be with. Using baseball terms as his chapter headings, followed by definitions, Beam has managed to write a story that is fresh, funny and appealing to lovers and lovers of baseball, both male and female. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-525-47578-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2006

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