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Back to Young Hoosiers 2008-2009 Nominees: Middle Books (6-8)

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue

By Anna Harwell Celenza
Illustrated by JoAnn E. Kitchel

Publisher: Charlesbridge
Hardcover & CD*
ISBN-10: 1-57091-556-3
ISBN (13 digit)/EAN: 978-1-57091-556-3
Retail Price: $21.95
Our Net Price:  $12.35 (35% discount)

Includes a CD of Rhapsody in Blue performed by George Gershwin (1925 piano roll) and the Columbia Jazz Band, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

* ABC Best Books for Children
* Association of Jewish Libraries Notable Book for Young Readers
* NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
(Selector's Choice)
* Storytelling World Award Honor Title

Subjects / Categories:
Performing Arts - Music

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue by Anna Harwell Celenza

Size: 10.4 x 10.1 inches
32 Pages, Wgt 1..08
Ages 5-9,. Grades K-4

Available for the Publisher:
Guide to the Symphonies

Publisher Description - Inside front cover

It’s 1924, and George Geershwin has just read an announcement in the newspaper saying that he’s performing a new concerto in Aeolian Hall in a few weeks. The only problem is, this is news to him!

With encouragement from his broether and close friends, Gershwin seeks the inspiration to write a piece that will define American music. In his search for a new melody, Gershwin realizes that American music is much like its people -- a great melting pot of sounds, rhythms, and harmonies.

Anna Harwell Celenza and Joann Kitchel infus this story with the spirit of the roaring twenties -- a time when Tin Pan Alley was exploding with musical talent and art deco was all the rage. 

About the Author:
Anne Harwell Celenza received her Ph.D in musicology from Duke University. She is a professor at Georgetown University and a writer for “Performance Today” on NPR. Anna’s previous books for children include The Farewell Symphony, Pictures at an Exhibition, The Heroic Symphony, and Bach’s Goldberg Variations. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, Chris. 

Inside Page:



School Library Journal - July 1, 2006:

    “The creation of Gershwin's 1924 masterpiece is the subject of this picture book. The story, rendered in watercolor-and-ink caricatures, opens in the legendary pool hall where George's brother Ira discovers a newspaper announcement for a concert at which his sibling's new jazz concerto is to be featured -- only it hasn't been written yet. After the disbelief subsides and the conductorwho placed the ad is confronted, the musical genius embarks on a journey in which doubt, inspiration, and frustration overlay frenzied periods of intense work. Celenza's tale, complete with invented dialogue, brings the composer to life. The text incorporates musical ideas to discover the "klezmer howl" of the opening clarinet, the blues, and the "love song for New York" in the main theme. An author's note contains Gershwin's words describing the rhythm of the train ride that freed his mental block, providing ideas for content, style, and direction. Kitchel's sensitivity to this source material is especially evident in her spread of multifaceted patterns and images, presented as cameos against a black background; they relate to the composer's concept of a "musical kaleidoscope of America." An accompanying CD features Gerswhin himself (courtesy of a piano roll). Pair this with Robert Burleigh's Langston's Train Ride (Scholastic, 2004) to compare how a trip on an iron horse affected another American artist from the same period.”

 Booklist - November 1, 2006

Gerhswin's Rapsody in Blue is one of the most American of all musical pieces, incorporating rhythms and sounds that mirror the stew that was New York City in the mid-1920s. In straightforward prose and sturdy art, this book relates its story. Gershwin didn't remember agreeing to participate in bandleader Paul Whitman's musical extravaganza "An Experiment in Modern Music," which was only weeks away. But at Whitman's urging, he decides to compose a concerto--then regrets it when the writing becomes a struggle. While on a train, however, the sounds he hears help him focus his thoughts, and he imagines the Rhapsody from beginning to end, later calling it "a musical kaleidoscope of America." Along with the story, this provides what so many children's books about music lack--a CD, and this wonderful addition enriches the book. One its own, the story may not interest children, but once they hear the stimulating music, the history of its origins will take on meaning. A great way to introduce a classic to a new generation.


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