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Brundibar Hardcover – August 2, 2004

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Hardcover, August 2, 2004
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Editorial Reviews Review

Based on a Czech opera that was performed 55 times by children in Terezin, a Nazi concentration camp, Brundibar is an odd, urgent little tale of a brother and sister who are desperately trying to get their hands on some milk for their sick mother. They race to the village center, only to discover that they need money to buy milk. Unfortunately, all the money in town seems to be going to the nefarious hurdy-gurdy man, Brundibar. Enter three talking animals and 300 willing children (bearing balloons stating "WE DON’T MIND SKIPPING SCHOOL"), and things start looking up for little Aninku and Pepicek. Retold by playwright Tony Kushner and illustrated by Caldecott Medal recipient Maurice Sendak, this operatic story is just nutty enough to become a favorite for open-minded young readers. Sendak fans will smile to see the village baker, who bears a striking resemblance to the baker in Sendak's In the Night Kitchen. His chaotic, jam-packed illustrations reveal witty little subplots to the libretto text (written all in upper case), which sharp-eyed readers will enjoy discovering. (Ages 5 to 8) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

K Up-A picture book based on a 1938 Czech opera, originally performed by the children of Terezin. A brother and sister try to get milk for their sick mother. They sing for coins in the town square, but Brundibar the organ grinder drowns out their words with his "teeth-chattery bone-rattley horrible song." Pepicek and Aninku then join voices with 300 other children and earn enough coins to fill their "soon-to-be-milkbucket." The playful language, with occasional rhyme and alliteration, is a perfect match for Sendak's spirited young heroes. The illustrations reflect varied undertones of a powerful story that works on different levels, including many references to the Holocaust. Scenes in the town show rich adults ignoring the desperate siblings, while other children also suffer from hunger. A banner matches a sign that covered the gates of Auschwitz, and several townsfolk wear yellow Stars of David. Brundibar vaguely resembles Hitler, particularly in one scene where he appears, huge and purple faced, with a clenched fist. A wordless spread showing grieving parents is poignant in itself, but tragic within the Holocaust context. Most kids won't get the literal references, but will respond directly to the images of the ominous, yet hopeful world depicted. In the end everyone sings triumphantly that "the wicked never win" and "our friends make us strong," but a final scribbled message from Brundibar promises that he'll be back. This is an ambitious picture book that succeeds both as a simple children's story and as a compelling statement against tyranny.
Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 54 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books Ltd (August 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844280284
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844280285
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.5 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,780,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tony Kushner's plays include A Bright Room Called Day and Slavs!; as well as adaptations of Corneille's The Illusion, Ansky's The Dybbuk, Brecht's The Good Person of Szecguan and Goethe's Stella. Current projects include: Henry Box Brown or The Mirror of Slavery; and two musical plays: St. Cecilia or The Power of Music and Caroline or Change. His collaboration with Maurice Sendak on an American version of the children's opera, Brundibar, appeared in book form Fall 2003. Kushner grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and he lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 20 customer reviews
The illustrations are beautiful and the text by Tony Kushner is great.
It is well written, well illustrated and tells a very important story in allegorical form.
Helen H. Pierce
This little book is a delight to be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Barbara Sethmann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A book sorely in need of annotation. Retold by Tony Award winning playwrite Tony Kushner and illustrated with grace and aplomb by Maurice Sendak (the thinking kid's illustrator), the tale of "Brundibar" is retold in an entirely new format. Originally an opera performed by the children of Terezin (a Nazi concentration camp) for those Germans who had to be convinced that everything was just ducky in the camps. The children were, needless to say, killed after the final performance of this piece, and so the opera is as light-hearted as it is chilling. In the plot, two children attempt to find fresh milk for their ailing mother. Only milk will do. But they are chased away by the nasty Hitler look-alike, Brundibar, and must gather their forces (some 300 children or so) to face up to the bully.
Sendak and Kushner have created a story that fulfills several needs. It tells a story that has links to horrors unimaginable. At the same time, they have created a whole new text that deserves examination. That and it's darned purty. The pictures in this book are amazing, filled with tiny details that make a person think. When the brother and sister gather 300 children with them for aid, a Kilroy character holds a sign saying, "People are happy helping. It's never hard to find help. It is only hard to know that it's time to ask". The fact that Kilroy is best associated with the American GI forces in WWII may or may not be important to the scene. At any rate, it sparks dialogue. The book is Sendakian in the extreme due to the odd combination of realism and outright peculiarity. The ice-cream seller is going to give me nightmares for months, I'm sure.
I don't think this is necessarily a book for children. And there is nothing wrong with that.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on November 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Over six decades ago, the opera Brundibar (Czech slang for bumblebee) was written. When the writer (Adolf Hoffmeister) was imprisoned by the Nazis in Terezin, the opera he and Hans Krasa wrote was smuggled into the camp. The children performed the opera; it kept their minds off the impending doom. The Nazis even filmed one of the 55 performances for a propaganda film, showing Terezin to be a model city for the Jews. Kushner and Sendak collaborated for over three years on this book, which recreates the opera in book form. At one point, Sendak even tore up all his drawings and started over. This is a masterpiece for children as well as adults. The prose is lyrical in tempo and style; the drawings are exquisite. The use of colored and Italian pencils evoke the crayons that the children of Terezin used (under the teaching direction of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who was deported to Terezin in 1942, and then murdered at Auschwitz in 1944.) In the story, a brother and sister are sent by a doctor to the village's market square to fetch milk for their ill mother. Here they meet the milkman, the baker, and the ice cream maker. But without money, they can buy no milk. They spy Brundibar, a children hating, loud, brash, mean, street musician, dressed in a Napoleon hat and old medal filled uniform. With him around, they can make no money singing to pay for the milk. But with the help of some talking animals and other children, they perform a lullaby and earn the needed funds to help their mother. Brundibar is defeated (When performed as an opera, the children and audience understood that Brundibar represented their jailers.) Adults will note the last page, in which Brundibar writes a final note. Bullies and Brundibar vow to return one day.Read more ›
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By David Kudler on December 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I think I'm qualified to say whether a book has real quality as a book for kids--this one does. The story is lovely, a straight-forward folktale/teaching story on the importance of working together to overcome adversity. The language glitters and charms, as anyone who has seen Tony Kushner's plays would expect. And Maurice Sendak's illustrations are his most lucid, enchanting and charming since In The Night Kitchen. My five-year-old loved it, loves the story of two enterprising children defeating an adult bully, and has asked to have it read for the past few nights, since we got the book.

The backstory of the book--the fact that it is based on an opera written by the children of Teresienstadt concentration camp--is hinted at very subtly. If one is aware enough to pick up the clues (ranging from a gateway that reads "Arbeit Macht Frei," like the entrance to Auschwitz, to the yellow stars marking Jewish characters, to the barely legible program from the premiere of the opera, behind a handwritten note), the story is there. I found it gave the story a depth and resonance that stayed with me. If, on the other hand, you don't know about it--I certainly wasn't going to point it out to my kids, just yet--the book still works beautifully.

All in all, this is a beautiful work from two of the most remarkable artists who have been active in American popular culture in the last fifty years.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Brundibar is another complex yet simple Sendak work. Tony Kushners lyrical prose matches perfectly with Sendak's incredibly vivid and beautiful illustrations.
Like other Sendak works, this book has several levels. It's a great kids story about bullies and how they can be dealt with. On a more adult level, its about how WWII and the Holocost affected the children of Europe, christian as well as jewish.
The text is adapted by Kushner from the libretto of the Opera by the same name. While the words stand up well on their own, the book flys on the wings of Sendaks wonderful art. Several stories are told within the story if the reader pays close attention to the details present in every illustration.
This book is destined to be a classic. (...) and buy a timeless piece of art from people who helped define the artform of the picture book.
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