Review of The Monkey and the Bee, by C. P. Bloom and Peter Raymundo

August 26th, 2016

monkey_and_the_bee_largeThe Monkey and the Bee

by C. P. Bloom
illustrated by Peter Raymundo

Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York, 2015. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a book that’s brilliant for beginning readers, but also for small children who don’t read yet at all. This is a mostly wordless book – the story is told through pictures, and the words merely label things.

On the first page we see:

The Monkey
The Bee
The Banana

The pictures show the bee fly onto the banana and get flicked off – but the bee comes back just as the monkey is taking a bite and buzzes in the monkey’s mouth.

The monkey spits out the bee, but gets mad and picks up a branch to swat the bee. Unfortunately, he ends up swatting The Lion. Hijinks ensue and eventually it’s the bee who helps rescue the monkey from the lion. The monkey decides to share the banana.

The story as I just told it here is nothing particularly special. It’s the large close-up illustrations with so many action shots that make this book a winner. There is so much to talk about with little ones – and even toddler listeners will understand what’s going on and quickly learn what the print words are saying.

I used this book in a toddler storytime, and it was a huge hit. Lots of audience reaction! The expressions are large and even toddlers understand the emotion. And the happy ending leaves everyone feeling good.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

August 25th, 2016

hamilton_largeHamilton

The Revolution

Being the Complete Libretto of the Broadway Musical,
With a True Account of Its Creation,
And Concise Remarks on Hip-Hop, the Power of Stories, and the New America

by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Grand Central Publishing (Hachette), 2016. 288 pages.
Starred Review

This book is magnificent! Now I really need to figure out a way to get to see the musical.

This is not, however, a good choice for audiobook listening. That’s how I started it, hoping maybe they’d include some clips from the show. Nope. (Only some bars as an introduction.)

The book itself has wonderful material added to the text about the musical. It includes the complete libretto, with large photographs. Most pages of the libretto, in fact, are superimposed over or printed next to large format photos of the actors singing that particular song. The libretto is peppered with notes from Lin-Manuel Miranda.

They tried to include these things in the audiobook. There are two “additional” CDs. One includes pdf files – of the libretto, perhaps with photos. (I didn’t check.) The other is Lin-Manuel Miranda reading the notes. But since the notes are simply read – out of context, not in place in the libretto (Presumably where they go on the libretto is in the pdf.) – you’re going to want to read them, anyway.

Now, I had listened to the first two CDs before I went on vacation. While in California, my sister played for me the wonderful cast album, which gave much more context to what I had listened to. When I got back, my hold came in on the print form of the book – and I learned that the words of the songs are all written out – right next to the information about writing and casting that song. So I switched to the print form and read the words to all the songs, with notes and with pictures, in the right order along with the chapter about writing that song and what it meant in context.

The story of writing and casting the musical and all that it means in America today and why it’s such a phenomenon is the subject of this book.

Here’s a section from the Introduction where Jeremy McCarter explains the plan of the book.

It tells the stories of two revolutions. There’s the American Revolution of the 18th century, which flares to life in Lin’s libretto, the complete text of which is published here, with his annotations. There’s also the revolution of the show itself: a musical that changes the way that Broadway sounds, that alters who gets to tell the story of our founding, that lets us glimpse the new, more diverse America rushing our way. The fact that Lin wrote the show largely in sequence means that this book can trace the two revolutions in tandem. The story of the show’s creation begins at the White House on May 12, 2009, when he performed the first song for the first time. It ends with opening night on Broadway, August 6, 2015, just after he completed the final scenes of the show.

The story is fascinating – both the story put into the musical and the story of the creation of the musical. I have now also placed a hold on Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, which inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Here’s a section from a chapter about Ron Chernow’s help in the writing of the musical:

He walked into a rehearsal studio in the Garment District and was, by his own admission, “shocked” by what he saw. The men who were going to sing the roles of Washington, Hamilton, and the other Founding Fathers were black and Latino. Not being a rap listener, Ron hadn’t given much thought to the fact that the people best able to perform the songs that Lin had been writing might look nothing like their historical counterparts.

Lin and Tommy saw no difficulty in making this imaginative leap. In fact, they raised it to a principle. As Tommy would state it again and again in the years that followed: “This is a story about America then, told by America now.”

Within five minutes, Ron was carried away by what he heard. He became what he calls a “militant” defender of the idea that actors of any race could play the Founding Fathers.

Just having all the words of the songs is by itself a reason to get the book – because the songs are packed with information. Having read the whole thing, I’m planning to buy myself a copy of the cast album and listen to it all again – I will catch so much more.

There’s all kinds of background information here about casting the show and putting it on, but one of my favorite chapters was about special performances they did for local high schools – and the energy that the teachers harnessed and brought back to the classroom. They included some exciting stories about the students engaging with the material.

Then they ended the chapter talking about what will happen when Hamilton is licensed to be performed in schools.

Its subject matter will appeal to history teachers, its array of juicy roles will appeal to young actors, and its mélange of musical styles will appeal to almost everybody. In a given school year, they imagine, that might mean 600 or 700 student productions around the United States.

What will it mean when thousands of students step into these roles at age 15 or 18 or 20 – roles that have changed the lives of the original cast members, who encountered them at a significantly later age? Leslie says that playing a Founding Father has made him feel newly invested in the country’s origins, something that always seemed remote from his life as a black man in America. “The empathy that requires, the connections you make, the lines you draw between the things you want and the things they wanted, that you love and they loved, I never found all that connective tissue before this show.”

Lin hopes those student productions will strive for the diversity of the original production, the ethnic mix that makes Hamilton look like a message beamed back from Future America. It means that whatever impact the show might have on Broadway, and however long it might run, the biggest impact won’t be in New York: It’ll be in high school and college rehearsal rooms across America, where boys learn to carry themselves with the nobility of George Washington, girls learn to think and rap fast enough to rip through “Satisfied,” and kids of either gender (Lin isn’t doctrinaire) summon the conviction of John Laurens, the freedom-fighting abolitionist, who sings, “Tomorrow there’ll be more of us.”

The book is framed by two performances for President Obama, and there are reflections at the end that communicate part of why this musical is so inspiring.

Unless Lin made the whole thing up – and nobody has said that he did – it suggests that however innovative Obama’s speeches and Lin’s show might seem, they are, in fact, traditional. They don’t reinvent the American character, they renew it. They remind us of something we forgot, something that fell as far out of sight as the posthumously neglected Alexander Hamilton, who spent his life defending one idea above all: “the necessity of Union to the respectability and happiness of this Country.” Obama’s speeches and Lin’s show resonate so powerfully with their audiences because they find eloquent ways to revive Hamilton’s revolution, the one that spurred Americans to see themselves and each other as fellow citizens in a sprawling, polyglot young republic. It’s the change in thought and feeling that makes all the other changes possible.

The Obama presidency will end in January 2017, but the show that shares so much of its spirit will keep running. At the Rodgers that night, the president all but anointed Hamilton as a keeper of the flame. His “primary message,” he said, was to remind people of the need to keep hoping and to work together, but “this performance undoubtedly described it better than I ever could.” The most important affinity that Hamilton will carry into its future isn’t a specific message, though, political or otherwise: It’s an underlying belief in stories, and their power to change the world.

Good community organizer that he is, the president knows that stories can be an engine for empathy, and a way to show people what they share. It’s why he introduced himself, in that first big speech in 2004, by telling his own story. In the years to come, some of the many, many kids who are going to see and even perform Hamilton will be newly inspired to tell their stories too. Every time they do, the newly kaleidoscopic America will understand itself a little more.

“I can do that,” they’ll say. And if they’re like Alexander Hamilton, they’ll add, “And I can do it better.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of I Wish You More, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

August 24th, 2016

i_wish_you_more_largeI Wish You More

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld

Chronicle Books, 2015. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Aw, shucks. This is one of those sweet books to tell someone how much you love them – but it’s written with creativity and a light touch that keeps it from being saccharine. This one will work so well to read to a beloved toddler sitting cozily on your lap.

The book begins:

I wish you more ups than downs.

[Two kids are happily running with a kite high in the air.]

I wish you more give than take.

[A boy is sharing an orange with a girl. They’re sitting on a big rock, with a soccer ball at its base.]

I wish you more tippy-toes than deep.

[We see a pool with a boy’s head poking out of the water – just at the level of his wide grin.]

I like some of the more fanciful ones:

I wish you more pause than fast-forward.

I wish you more umbrella than rain.
I wish you more bubbles than bath.

That’s it. That’s the book. There are more lines than what I’ve quoted, and the pictures add tremendous charm, but that gives you the idea.

And it’s beautiful.

Of course the finish brings it home to one you love:

I wish all of this for you,

because you are everything
I could wish for . . .

and more.

chroniclekids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Story I’ll Tell, by Nancy Tupper Ling and Jessica Lanan

August 24th, 2016

story_ill_tell_largeThe Story I’ll Tell

by Nancy Tupper Ling
illustrations by Jessica Lanan

Lee & Low Books, New York, 2015. 32 pages.

You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful book for families who have adopted children to provide a context for telling their own adoption story.

This book, with lovely watercolor illustrations, is about a brown mother and white father who have adopted a baby from China.

As the book begins, the mother, sitting cozy with her son next to her and a large book open, says:

Someday when you ask where you came from,
I’ll tell you a story.

What follows are several fanciful scenarios, which all slip in how loved this child is.

“No, not a horseman,” I’ll say. “An angel. That’s who brought you.”

Wrapped in her arms, you followed a trail of lanterns around the world until you reached our doorstep.

I’ll always wonder how she picked our home. We don’t have fancy gates or marble stairs, but she found the perfect place for you.

How your eyes sparkled when I first saw you.

Sometimes the stories are quite simple, and sometimes very imaginative.

Perhaps we were walking on the beach at night, and you floated in on a wave.

No, not a wave! I’d say there was a dragon queen who kept you by the sea to raise you as her own. I heard cooing sounds calling to me.

I waited until the dragon queen fell asleep. Then I tiptoed inside and rescued you from her dark cave.

But she finally gets to the real story.

“Not true!” you’ll say when I tell these tales. And I’ll smile, because it will be hard to fool the brightest child in the world.

She keeps the real story as lovely as the imaginative ones, involving a flight through the sky and a picture of the baby looking out a plane window. On the ground, they are greeted by loving relatives and friends. Though the baby cries “for things lost and new,” the mother knows “you were the best gift we ever received.”

This is simply a lovely choice, especially for adoptive families.

nancytupperling.com
jessicalanan.com
leeandlow.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of To Catch a Cheat, by Varian Johnson

August 20th, 2016

to_catch_a_cheat_largeTo Catch a Cheat

by Varian Johnson

Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, 2016. 241 pages.
Starred Review

This sequel to The Great Greene Heist can be enjoyed on its own, though why limit the fun? The first book explains how Jackson Greene’s team was assembled, but other than that, you can go on with the story in To Catch a Cheat.

Jackson Greene keeps trying to give up running cons. But someone has hacked the new security cameras at school, backed up the toilets and flooded the school — and faked footage of Jackson and his team doing the deed. Their terms: Steal the key to Mrs. Clark’s legendary end-of-term exam, or the fake video footage will be turned over to the principal.

The principal doesn’t trust Jackson, so he won’t wait for them to prove the video was faked.

What’s more, they have to include two of their opponents in the exam heist. But Jackson and his team are pretty sure those two aren’t the real mastermind behind the plot. Who has it in for Jackson? And how can they get the fake video without letting anyone get away with cheating?

I’ll be honest — I’m not sure I followed every step of the elaborate plan Jackson and his friends worked out. But I definitely enjoyed the journey.

Again, To Catch a Cheat has a multicultural cast and realistic middle school students — smart and tech-savvy, but definitely still kids. Jackson has patched things up with Gaby de la Cruz and is spending a lot of time with her, but now the caper he’s having trouble planning is when to kiss her.

More good-natured fun and cleverness. What could be better? Elaborate plans for a team to break into school and steal a test — but also work it out that the cheats are the ones who get caught. Can they pull it off? Who better than Jackson Greene? He’s trying to stay retired, but what can a con artist do when he gets framed?

varianjohnson.com
arthuralevinebooks.com
scholastic.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

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Review of Waylon! One Awesome Thing, by Sara Pennypacker

August 20th, 2016

waylon_largeWaylon!

One Awesome Thing

by Sara Pennypacker
pictures by Marla Frazee

Disney Hyperion, 2016. 198 pages.
Starred Review

Here is some consolation that the series of books about Clementine has finished. We don’t have to totally say good-by to Clementine, because now we can get to know Waylon. Waylon is Clementine’s classmate, and now they are in fourth grade.

Sara Pennypacker is a genius at dramatizing child-sized concerns. Waylon is a budding scientist now navigating things like a leader in his class dividing everyone in the class into teams. And his teenage sister Charlotte has changed her name to Neon and wears nothing but black. Then a kid from last year is back – and he looks like trouble. Which team will they put him on?

Waylon doesn’t like the idea of teams, but he still finds he wants to be put on a team. He’s got a problem with blurting out scientific facts that seem exciting to him.

Waylon gets a journal where he can write down his awesome ideas. Soon a cause comes up that seems worth all his energy. Will it bring the class together?

I just don’t find it in me to be quite as big a fan of Waylon as I am of Clementine, but I strongly suspect he’ll grow on me. And I’m glad that there’s something more, but a little bit different, for fans of Clementine.

I like Waylon’s family almost as much as I like Clementine’s family. His mom is a scientist with a lab. His dad is a writer who often does acting in the park on Saturdays. On the Saturday we see, he’s posing as a living statue of Ben Franklin who moves suddenly and surprises people. Waylon learns useful things from watching him.

Here’s what Waylon does in the park after spending some time watching his dad:

Waylon . . . took off to find a good place to play Want This Dog?

Waylon stretched out on an empty bench with a view of the park. He would never have a dog – ever – because his mother was deathly allergic. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t pretend. Whenever a dog went by, he imagined that its owner was trying to give it away. No thanks, he imagined himself saying to a woman with a poodle. Too fluffy.

No, he thought when a teenager tugged a Saint Bernard past his bench. Too slobbery.

Playing Want This Dog? Made him both sad and happy at the same time. It hurt to see all those dogs he could never have. The truth was, he would have loved to take any of them. Still, it made him feel strangely happy that in all the times he’d played, he had never imagined himself answering Yes.

If he didn’t know better, he could believe that the perfect dog – the one meant just for him – was waiting out there. But waiting for what, he couldn’t imagine.

Once again, I like the way Sara Pennypacker brings all the disparate threads in Waylon’s life together, in a completely satisfying, but realistic, climax.

sarapennypacker.com
marlafrazee.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of We Will Not Be Silent, by Russell Freedman

August 18th, 2016

we_will_not_be_silent_largeWe Will Not Be Silent

The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler

by Russell Freedman

Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2016. 104 pages.

Here’s a large-format nonfiction book, with photographs on every spread, about a group of German students who defied Hitler by writing and distributing pamphlets that denounced him. The original founders of the group were executed for their “crimes.”

The Preface neatly summarizes what this book covers:

In 1942, when World War II was in its third year, leaflets began to appear mysteriously in mailboxes all over Nazi Germany. Someone would open an envelope, pull out a leaflet, take one look, then turn and glance around nervously to make sure no one was watching. A person could not be too careful. Anyone caught with a seditious leaflet was marked as an enemy of the state and could land in a concentration camp, or worse.

Neatly typed, run off on a mimeograph machine, these documents were headed “Leaflets of the White Rose.” They assailed the Nazi “dictatorship of evil,” denounced Adolf Hitler as a liar and blasphemer, and called on the German people to rise up and overthrow the Nazi regime.

Where were these inflammatory leaflets coming from? Who was the White Rose? Was more than one person involved? The Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, organized a special task force to hunt down those responsible. A reward was offered for information leading to their “speedy arrest.”

I like when a nonfiction book for children has information I don’t know myself. I’d never heard the story of Hans and Sophie Scholl and the movement they founded. It’s good to read about Germans who didn’t fall for Hitler’s lies. These ones gave their lives for it.

In a gruesome note, I’ve read a lot about concentration camps, but I hadn’t realized that Hitler’s favorite method of execution of his enemies was the guillotine. These students were actually beheaded when they were caught – but their movement continued. Today there is a memorial and museum about them at Munich University, where they were students.

This book is accessible to kids, with so many relevant photographs throughout the book. It also presents a wealth of information for anyone of any age who’s interested in true acts of heroism.

hmhco.com

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Sonderling Sunday – Harry Potter – In Three Languages

August 14th, 2016

German HPs

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

Having recently read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I’m in the mood for visiting Harry’s world, so it’s back to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. (I will use the British edition, since that’s the original.)

Now, I have multiple editions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — including American English, British English, German, French, Bulgarian, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and Czech. However, the only one I have a hope of reading besides English and German is French — so I’m going to add in the French translations of notable phrases alongside the German.

This goes more slowly than just doing two languages. So last time I tackled Harry Potter, I only finished the first section with the Dursleys.

We are on page 12 of the British edition, page 8 of the American, Seite 12 of the German, and page 12 of the French.

Here’s the first sentence of the new section:
“Mr Dursley might have been drifting into an uneasy sleep, but the cat on the wall outside was showing no sign of sleepiness.”
= Mr. Dursley mochte in einen unruhigen Schlaf hinübergeglitten sein, doch die Katze draußen auf der Mauer zeigte keine Spur von Müdigkeit.
= Tandis que Mr Dursley se laissait emporter dans un sommeil quelque peu agité, le chat sur le mur, lui, ne montrait aucun signe de somnolence.

“car door slammed”
= Autotür zugeknallt
= portière de voiture claqua

“two owls swooped overhead”
= zwei Eulen über ihren Kopf hinwegschwirrten
= deux hiboux passèrent au-dessus de sa tête

“so suddenly and silently”
= so jäh und lautlos
= si soudainement et dans un tel silence

“high-heeled, buckled boots”
= Schnallenstiefel mit hohen Hacken
= bottes à hauts talons munies de boucles

“half-moon spectacles”
= halbmondförmigen Brillengläsern
= lunettes en demi-lune

“rummaging”
= durchstöberte
= chercher

“silver cigarette lighter”
= silbernes Feuerzeug
briquet en argent

This is fun to say:
“He flicked it open”
= Er ließ den Deckel aufschnappen
= Il en releva le capuchin

“clicked it”
= es knipsen
= l’alluma

“Put-Outer”
= Ausmacher
= l’Éteignoir (“the snuffer”)

“pinpricks”
= Stecknadelköpfe
= points minuscule

I like this one:
“shooting stars”
= Sternschnuppen
= étoiles filantes

“You-Know-Who”
= Du-weißt-shon-wer
= Vous-Savez-Qui

“sherbet lemon”
= “lemon drop” (American)
= Brausebonbon
= esquimau au citron

“a kind of Muggle sweet”
= eine Nascherei der Muggel
= une friandise que fabriquent les Moldus

I’m going to stop there, after the lemon drops. It takes longer in three languages! Although I took French in high school, it’s very rusty, and I had to use Google translate to be sure I’d grabbed the right words out of the text.

I wish I had learned the words for Shooting Stars before the meteor shower last week.

As it is, it may be tricky to find reasons to use these words this week….

Review of Symphony for the City of the Dead, by M. T. Anderson

August 13th, 2016

symphony_for_the_city_of_the_dead_largeSymphony for the City of the Dead

Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

by M. T. Anderson

Candlewick Press, 2015. 456 pages.
Starred Review
2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist

I’m not sure why this book is marketed for young adults rather than old adults, except that it’s super interesting, contains lots of photographs, and isn’t written in tiny print. The story doesn’t pull any punches or hide any of the horrors of war, nor does it focus on the time in Shostakovich’s life when he was a young adult. But yes, it’s interesting for young adults, as any well-written narrative nonfiction would be.

The book begins with a prologue that piques the reader’s curiosity. The first scene is of a Russian agent smuggling a small box of microfilm to an American agent in 1942. The microfilm has come through Tehran, Cairo, and Brazil on its way to New York City. The contents of the microfilm? The Seventh Symphony, the Leningrad Symphony, by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Why had the Soviet government arranged so carefully for this piece to be shipped to the West across battle lines, across a Middle East that was swarming with Fascist tanks, across seas festering with enemy subs? How could it possibly be worth it?

And who was the composer of this desperately sought-after score? Dmitri Shostakovich spent the first several months of the Siege of Leningrad trapped in that city under fire, writing much of his Seventh Symphony in breaks between air raids. He had first announced that he was working on the piece over the radio in September 1941, just a few weeks after the Germans had started shelling the city. . . .

This is a tale of microfilm canisters and secret police, of Communists and capitalists, of battles lost and wars won. It is the tale of a utopian dream that turned into a dystopian nightmare. It is the tale of Dmitri Shostakovich and of his beloved city, Leningrad. But at its heart, it is a story about the power of music and its meanings – a story of secret messages and doublespeak, and of how music itself is a code; how music coaxes people to endure unthinkable tragedy; how it allows us to whisper between the prison bars when we cannot speak aloud; how it can still comfort the suffering, saying, “Whatever has befallen you – you are not alone.”

M. T. Anderson does tell the story of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony and thoroughly explains why it was so important and why symphony orchestras all over the world wanted to perform it. But more than that, he tells the life story of Dmitri Shostakovich and the story of St. Petersburg, the city of his birth, later called Leningrad. This story requires telling the story of Communism coming to Russia, with the rise of Lenin and Stalin. And then it tells the story of World War II, and how at the outset Stalin believed Hitler’s promises and eliminated Russian military leaders who told him otherwise.

The majority of the book, though, is about the Siege of Leningrad, during which Shostakovich wrote his Seventh Symphony. This siege lasted 872 days – the longest siege in recorded history. Hitler had decided he didn’t need to attack the city – it could be starved.

The story is not pretty. The author doesn’t shy away from the deaths – and the cannibalism. Shostakovich was evacuated from the city before the end of the siege, but the author still fills us in on what was happening in Leningrad where Shostakovich’s sister was still living. Especially poignant is the story of the musicians who were still alive in Leningrad assembling to perform the Seventh Symphony.

Eliasberg [the conductor] remembered that night for the rest of his life. (It was to be the high point of his career.) “People just stood and cried. They knew that this was not a passing episode but the beginning of something. We heard it in the music. The concert hall, the people in their apartments, the soldiers on the front – the whole city had found its humanity. And in that moment, we triumphed over the soulless Nazi war machine.”

Naturally, while reading this book, especially the description of the symphony, I had to look up a performance on the internet and listen. Knowing the background made it far more meaningful.

Notes in the back explain the difficulties associated with piecing together this story. As M. T. Anderson asks, “How do we reconstruct the story of someone who lived in a period in which everyone had an excuse to lie, evade, accuse, or keep silent?” This book is an amazing piece of scholarship wrapped up in a gripping narrative and sprinkled with an abundance of photographs.

If you are at all interested in the life of Dmitri Shostakovich, the fate of musicians and artists under the Soviets, the rise of Communism in Russia, World War II and the Russian Army, or the City of Leningrad, you can’t find a more absorbing way to learn more than reading this book.

candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/symphony_for_the_city_of_the_dead.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Humans of New York: Stories, by Brandon Stanton

August 13th, 2016

humans_of_ny_stories_largeHumans of New York

Stories

by Brandon Stanton

St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2015. 428 pages.
Starred Review

I loved Brandon Stanton’s first book, Humans of New York. Now I love his second book even more. In the first book, about half of the photographs had captions. In this book, he interviewed everyone, and includes snippets or in-depth stories from those interviews.

You still have high quality photographs of random people, in all their variety, from the streets of New York. But you’ve also got their stories.

Honestly, some of these stories will break your heart. Others will make you shake your head. Some are inspirational. Some are simply cute. There were several with the caption “Today in microfashion,” showing a small child dressed in a striking outfit.

What comes home to me after reading it is the sheer number of amazingly unique people on our planet (let alone in New York!).

Many of the stories go on for paragraphs. This isn’t as quick a read as the first book. However, I’ll quote a small selection of some tantalizingly short captions to give you an idea. Imagine wonderful photos of the people doing the talking.

“I’ve got what I want. I’ve got a place to live, a girlfriend, and a child. My biggest struggle is just figuring out how to maintain.”

“I spoil every girl I’m with. I’m bringing this dog to my girlfriend now. I’ve already gotten her a snake, a rabbit, and two dogs. She loves animals. She wants to be a vet.”

“Sometimes, when I’m going home to see her, I think: ‘Nobody should be this happy on a Tuesday.’”

“I went to a psychic the day before I met him. She told me I was about to meet the woman of my dreams. I said: ‘I’m gay.’”

“Had cancer six times. Beat cancer six times.”

“Three thousand years ago I had a disagreement with Zeus about the Trojan War, and he’s been harassing me ever since.”

“I’ve completed a series of monumental-sized drawings in ballpoint pen of girls who’ve killed their mothers.”

“It’s hard to adjust. You’re reading a story to your daughters every night, then the next thing you know, you’re only doing it once or twice a week. It’s been hard letting go. It all happened without my consent. It only takes one person to want a divorce. And that person wasn’t me.”

“She helps me with my math homework. When I run out of fingers to count on, she lets me use her fingers, too.”

“I once crash-landed a plane in a desert in Tunisia. I wasn’t even the pilot. The pilot got hysterical and I had to grab the controls.”

Reading this book is a wonderful way to celebrate the amazing diversity of humans.

humansofnewyork.com
stmartins.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/humans_of_ny_stories.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?