Published by Candlewick
Summary: James Rhodes starts this book with his “ultimate playlist”, then profiles the seven classical composers from the list: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel. Each profile includes two pages of biographical information, listing popular music and movies that have been inspired or include soundtrack music from this composer. Then he details two of the composer’s pieces in kid-friendly terms, using stories to explain the music. There are many pop culture references connecting the music and history to the present. Sections describing the orchestra and a timeline of western classical music are inserted between the chapters on the composers. Includes a glossary and index. 72 pages; grades 6 and up.
Pros: I’m not particularly knowledgeable (or, I’m sorry to say, interested) in classical music, yet I found myself immediately drawn into this book. The conversational tone, fascinating stories, connections to the present, and eye-popping, psychedelic illustrations make this a book that will appeal to middle and high school students and should be sought out by music teachers everywhere.
Cons: It would have been nice to at least acknowledge somewhere that not all composers of classical music were white men.