cover image Music Over Manhattan

Music Over Manhattan

Mark Karlins. Doubleday Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32225-6

Eclipsed by his perfect cousin Herbert, Bernie languishes at family gatherings until Uncle Louie takes him under his wing, offering trumpet lessons. After a rocky start (""the notes squawked and screeched, and the pigeons flew off the windowsill""), Bernie perseveres, but he still can't play ""the most beautiful song in the world"" (""Moonlight Over Manhattan""), nor does he approach the virtuosity of Uncle Louie, who floats above his Brooklyn rooftop from the sheer glory of the song's sound. Eventually, it's Bernie who saves the day at Cousin Hannah's wedding when Herbert wreaks havoc at the head table. Bernie's command performance of ""Moonlight Over Manhattan"" at this crucial juncture levitates the entire wedding party, all of whom sail off happily into the night, circling the Chrysler and Empire State buildings before landing safely in Brooklyn. A thoroughly likable fantasy, Karlins's (Mendel's Ladder) tale hums merrily along to the accompaniment of first-time picture book artist Davis's sleekly stylized illustrations. Droll caricatures cavort against a glorious Big Band-era backdrop, the straight-out-of-central-casting wardrobe taking in stubby ties and two-tone shoes for men with toothy grins, and for the women cat's-eye glasses and swooping coiffures. Davis's interpretation of the night-flight sequence, with the relatives soaring through a star-spangled cobalt sky and the boy and his horn silhouetted against the moon, is particularly inspired. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)