cover image The Music of Life: Bartolomeo Cristofori & the Invention of the Piano

The Music of Life: Bartolomeo Cristofori & the Invention of the Piano

Elizabeth Rusch, illus. by Marjorie Priceman. Atheneum, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4484-2

Rusch (Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World) playfully weaves aural imagery throughout this engaging story of how Bartolomeo Cristofori came to invent the piano. Sounds of 17th-century Italian life abound as the instrument maker heads to the Medici court in Florence to work alongside other craftsmen: “Wool beaters thump and looms clatter—clack. Ka-chunk goes the printing press.” The auditory motif continues as dynamics notations headline each spread: a booming “forte (loud)” rises from a noisy harpsichord, while “pianissimo (very soft)” curls across a scene of Cristofori tuning a clavichord. Wanting an instrument that can be played either loudly or softly, he builds the pianoforte, later shortened to piano. Priceman’s (Miracle on 133rd Street) bold brushstrokes and vibrant colors add energy and humor; an orange tabby cat, often comically startled awake by music, appears in most scenes. Extensive endnotes include a timeline, comparisons between the original and modern pianos, suggested listening (from Chopin to Tori Amos), and thorough discussion of the sources Rusch used. It’s a spirited, informative tale that will resonate with music aficionados young and old. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary. (Apr.) [/em]