cover image Write On, Irving Berlin!

Write On, Irving Berlin!

Leslie Kimmelman, illus. by David C. Gardner. Sleeping Bear, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58536-380-3

Kimmelman portrays the life of Irving Berlin, born Israel Isidore Baline to a Jewish family in Russia in 1888—“a bad time and place to be Jewish,” the author writes. The story begins as the family arrives at New York’s Ellis Island. Gardner’s spreads alternate between bright and crisp scenes of Berlin writing and playing music and more expressive tableaus that show texture and emotion through blurred colors and residual pencil lines. Kimmelman emphasizes Berlin’s devotion to music through a leitmotif: “Nothing stopped Irving from writing songs. Not his new love, Ellin.... Nothing stopped Irving from writing. Not World War II.” Kimmelman focuses on Berlin’s love for his adopted country, as expressed through the song “God Bless America,” and notes his progressive leanings, including performing for integrated audiences of soldiers during the war. A quiet conclusion shows an elderly Berlin gazing at the Statue of Liberty (“He died when he was 101 years old, 96 years after he’d first stepped onto the shores of his beloved United States”). Ages 6–10.[em] (May) [/em]