cover image Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought)

Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought)

Kathleen Krull. Harcourt Children's Books, $22 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-15-248010-3

Red was Mozart's favorite color. Beethoven was a slob. Clara Schumann's concerts were so popular that police had to be called in for crowd control. In this enthralling work, Krull dishes 16 of the movers and shakers in musical history--from Vivaldi and the ``three B's'' (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms) to Gilbert and Sullivan, Woody Guthrie and Scott Joplin (early critics of his ragtime accused it of causing permanent brain damage and ruining people's morals). Readers who thrive on offbeat information will be delighted by the splendid array of fun facts lurking in these informative and accurate snapshot biographies. Krull masterfully distills the essentials of each musician's life into snappy prose, an attitude echoed in the book's lively, playful design (the introductory page for each musician, for example, contains not only pertinent information but tantalizing, often cryptic ``kickers'' as well--the one above Brahms's name alludes to his checked underwear, which audiences occasionally glimpsed when the absent-minded conductor forgot to fasten his suspenders). Hewitt's caricatures feature full-sized heads on tiny bodies--a slant that plays up the quirky presentation. She, too, has an eye for detail, pulling out appropriate visual tidbits from the text--Bach's prized silver coffeepots, for example, grace a page corner. Even those only remotely interested in music will be hooked by these living, breathing anecdotes--the stuff of which the best biography is made. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)