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scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source

Category results for 'biography'.

While living in the UK, my family somehow acquired a cassette tape (yes, this was in the 90s) at a gas station (or petrol, as they called it there) called "Miles of Classical." It contained several well-known orchestral pieces of music, including Strauss's "Blue Danube," a movement from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," and, the fifth and last piece on side 1 of the cassette, George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," or at least an abbreviated version of it.

Other than "The Nutcracker," I didn't have much love for orchestral music, but listening to that cassette over and over and over on long drives really helped me and my siblings to develop more appreciation for some of these favorites. I'm still not sure I really "understand" jazz music, but Gershwin's piece was definitely my favorite on that cassette. It reminded me at various points of a morning sunrise and a predator/prey chase scene. The piano solo always amazed me. I would try to visualize the showmanship and talent that a piece like that must require. It wasn't until adulthood that I heard the piece in full, and also learned that Gershwin gave the opening notes to a clarinet rather than a saxophone, which made me like him even more (I took clarinet lessons in high school but never did anything cool like that with it).

So when I heard there was a book out called The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, I knew I had to procure it someday. There were few pieces of music that I would have been more interested in learning about than this one, but I also wondered how the translation of jazz-to-picture-book would go. 

I think it's fabulous. Everything is drawn in shades of blue with some earth tones thrown in -- gray-blues on the city streets, navy blue swirls of musical notes and piano keys, baby blues for people and sheets of music.. the whole book comes alive in a jazz-blue world, where it recounts factual information but also skips and bumps along at times with a steady, jazzy feel. Most of the text is written in a normal cadence and is not difficult to understand or read, but sometimes we have a "rattle-ty bang" of train tracks or the "WuaaaAAA..." of the clarinet. 

"Sleepy eyes flew open. Restless listeners sat still. People heading for the door hurried back to their seats. Trombones and trumpets blew brassy sounds -- small and soft, then big and bright. Velvety violins started to sing. More musicians joined in. Each carefully playing their sheets of music. Fingers flying, George made those piano keys MARCH. SKIP. Dance. But he didn't have sheet music. George played the notes in his head."

Wish I could've been there!

Scrounged From:

Format: Hardcover
Author: Suzanne Slade
Illustrator: Stacy Innerst
Pages: 48
Content Advisory: None

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I enjoyed this book about Robert Bateman, Canadian painter, naturalist, and conservationist, even though I'd never heard of him before reading it. The best part is the artwork -- the book includes several of his paintings of animals, natural sights, and people exploring, and they're beautifully realistic. Some of them I could hardly believe weren't photographs at first glance.

The text is fairly spare and straightforward, and focuses on his observations and growth as a painter -- in many cases it simply names different things that he painted, so this book would work well for young children with short attention spans, though the artwork should appeal to all ages. At the end there's a longer biography of Bateman's life and work.

(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)

Scrounged From: NetGalley

Format: Kindle
Author: Margriet Ruurs
Illustrator: Robert Bateman
Pages: 40
Content Advisory: None

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I've enjoyed the titles I've read so far in the Little People, Big Dreams series, and was glad to see one on the life of L. M. Montgomery, best known as the author of the Anne of Green Gables books.

This book, like others in the series, is written for very young children, and so is selective about the details and degree of information included. But I felt like I got a decent picture of Montgomery's life and what drove her and interested her as a child and beyond.

Despite creating one of the most endearing characters in children's literature, Montgomery's childhood was fairly lonely and sad. After losing both parents (in different ways), she lived with her grandparents who were not very affectionate, and young Maud (as she was called) had to create her own joy. It sounds like her writing was a way to not only express her loneliness, but also to imagine a better and fuller life.

One can't help but see glimpses of Anne Shirley herself here, even in this very abbreviated biography. It presents a hopeful picture of the power of persistence and imagination.

(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)

Scrounged From: NetGalley

Format: Kindle
Author: Isabel Sanchez Vegara
Illustrator: Anuska Allepuz
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: One of the first things mentioned is that Maud's mother passes away, and her father sails away from their island and isn't mentioned again.

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We really enjoyed Reeve Lindbergh's lovely poem about the life of Johnny Appleseed, as well as Kathy Jakobsen's intricate and colorful illustrations of an older, wilder American countryside, capturing each season beautifully. It helps that we'd previously read a biographical picture book about Johnny Appleseed's life, but this poem still manages to include basic information about him and what he did while maintaining poetic structure.

For part of this book, we see Johnny through the eyes of Hannah, who first meets him on his travels when she's a girl, and sees him again when he's old and she's getting older too. We learn about his pacifist nature and genuine belief that he should "hurt no living thing," and his helpful attitude and desire to help settlers grow their own food. We also learn that he has become a legend since his lifetime and that sometimes it's hard to tell truth from fiction when it comes to stories of his life.

There is an additional page of information about him at the end of the book, but the poem itself does such a good job of not only communicating information, but evoking the spirit of Johnny Appleseed, and what he's come to represent in American history and lore: adventure, independence, helpfulness, sacrifice, and love and conservation of nature.

Scrounged From: Our local library

Format: Paperback
Author: Reeve Lindbergh
Illustrator: Kathy Jakobsen
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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Jane Austen is one of the latest in the Little People, Big Dreams series (I previously reviewed Ada Lovelace), and I'm glad to see the inclusion of one of Britain's most famous female authors. I'm not quite as enormous a fan as some, but I did enjoy Pride and Prejudice, and respect what Jane accomplished in her time.

This book introduces Jane Austen to young children, focusing on her large, close family, and emphasizing that Jane received an education that was more expansive than what many girls received in those days. We also see her love of reading and writing and her determination to be a good storyteller, and to use writing to make the best of a sad situation in her life.

Her life is covered fairly quickly since a book for young children can't be too wordy, but overall it is an interesting peek into the past and thorough introduction to a beloved author.

(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)

Scrounged From: NetGalley

Format: Kindle
Author: Isabel Sanchez Vegara
Illustrator: Katie Wilson
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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