Music was IT by Susan Goldman Rubin

Lynn: “It was as if I didn’t exist without music,” Leonard Bernstein.  It is Berenstein’s intense purpose that is the focal point of Rubin’s outstanding new biography, Music Was IT!:  Young Leonard Bernstein (Charlesbridge 2011). Teens with a similar driving passion in their lives will discover a strong connection to the incredibly gifted young man in Rubin’s portrayal.  Bernstein knew his life’s work from an early age but he faced incredible difficulties from his own father’s determined opposition to his musical career to the European domination of the music world to the systemic antisemitism of the time.

While Rubin’s biography uses a common chronological format, it is her focus on Bernstein’s early years and his determination that makes this book so relevant for young readers.  Rubin demonstrates Bernstein’s complete absorption with music through numerous quotations and reminiscences from the people he grew up with as well as from Bernstein himself, giving the book a you-are-there immediacy.  Bernstein lived and breathed music.  He played for hours and hours every day and late into the night – driving the neighbors crazy!  He earned money for his own lessons by playing for weddings and bar mitzvahs.  Wonderful stories of teen productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, college roommates who arrived at campus to find a workmen struggling to install Bernstein’s piano into their suite and Bernstein’s abilities to read, sing and memorize” any piece of music are fascinating and vivid. Bernstein’s passion for music is inspiring and his persistent efforts to pursue his dreams will give heart to young people with dreams of their own.

Rubin’s research is equally inspiring as is the meticulous documentation and extensive back matter.  She provides a timeline, biographies of people in Bernstein’s life, a discography and excellent bibliography.  Well-chosen photographs round out this stellar book.  I’ve long admired Bernstein and I hope Rubin’s book will introduce him to a new generation.

For more Nonfiction Monday choices, check out Tales from the Rushmore Kid

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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