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Music Was IT: Young Leonard Bernstein (Junior Library Guild Selection) Hardcover – February 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* What do you do when you have a dream and your father is firmly against it? That�s the frame story for this highly readable and inspiring biography of Leonard Bernstein, whose father, Sam, was insistent that music should be a hobby and that Leonard should take over the family beauty-parlor-equipment business. But what Rubin�s involving book makes so clear is that music was Leonard�s life, and even a carping father couldn�t change that. From the moment young Leonard started banging around on a relative�s cast-off piano, the boy wanted more; as the years went on, that meant working to pay for his own lessons, worrying about what avenue his talents should take, and enduring prejudice for his American Jewish heritage, which made conducting seem an unlikely career. The book ends with Bernstein�s unexpected conducting debut at Carnegie Hall, his father in the audience. The determination, charm, and talent of Bernstein overcome the fact that few readers will know him or his music (except perhaps West Side Story). The wonderfully chosen photographs sometimes suffer from muddy reproduction, but the cover�showing a young Bernstein in a T-shirt conducting his heart out�is a sure draw. More about Bernstein comes in an expanded discography that includes videos and a bibliography of adult and youth books. Quotations are sourced, and thumbnail sketches of friends and colleagues mentioned in the book add dimension. Grades 6-9. --Ilene Cooper


"...highly readable and inspiring..." - Booklist, starred review "An impeccably researched and told biography of Leonard Bernstein’s musical apprenticeship, from toddlerhood to his conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic at age 25."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review "Rubin spins [Leonard Bernstein's] biography into a tale that reads as smoothly and compellingly as a novel."
--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books * A Junior Library Guild Selection

* Bulletin Blue Ribbon

* Carter G. Woodson Book Award (Middle Grade)

* National Jewish Book Award finalist

* NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People

* Sydney Taylor Book Award

* YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 970L (What's this?)
  • Series: Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580893449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580893442
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,279,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jewish Book World Magazine on January 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Life without music is unthinkable." With that Leonard Bernstein quotation, Susan Goldman Rubin opens her remarkable biography of the legendary composer and conductor. For young readers wrestling with self-identity, Bernstein's life provides a near inspirational message: whatever your life's passion, pursue it to the best of your ability. (Of course, it doesn't hurt if you are naturally gifted and driven to succeed.) As a child of Jewish immigrants, whose business oriented father didn't always understand his son's obsession with music, Bernstein nonetheless was the recipient of an outstanding education, first at Boston Latin School and then at Harvard. Growing up in a religious Conservative home and temple left an indelible mark on the young musician which later influenced compositions with biblical and Jewish themes. This is a well-researched and elegantly written biography with an in-depth focus on Bernstein's childhood through family anecdotes and memories which enrich the book. The photographs, particularly of his childhood and family, are especially poignant and well-selected. Also included are reproductions of musical scores, announcements and notes. Ms. Rubin's fluid writing makes Lenny and his achievements come alive, especially with the inclusion of supportive quotes sprinkled throughout the text. In addition to a timeline, discography, bibliography and quotation sources, the book contains helpful short biographies of individuals mentioned in the book who would be unfamiliar to young readers. For ages 9-12. Norm Finkelstein
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By AJL Reviews on July 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Rubin's well-written biography covers Leonard Bernstein's life and his passion for music from his childhood growing up in Boston through his brilliant conducting debut at age 25 with the New York Philharmonic in 1943 at Carnegie Hall. As all the famous conductors of classical music at that time were older Europeans,the young, American, Jewish "Lenny" created a tremendous sensation when he stepped in at the last minute to substitute for a conductor who had become ill.
Lenny realized from a young age that "music was IT;" that music was what his life was going to be about. The author writes humorously of the resourcefulness Lenny had to use to earn money for his musical studies because his father, Sam, did not support a career in music for his son. Sam felt that musicians would always be poor, like the klezmers in the old country. He wanted Lenny to join the family beauty business, or become a rabbi. Rubin's lively writing captures Bernstein's larger-than-life personality and transmits the great joy he found in music throughout his life. She handles the subject of his sexual orientation tactfully in the epilogue, writing that "In his personal life Lenny felt attracted to both men and women and had many romantic relationships."
The book is well designed, with a cover picture of young Bernstein characteristically conducting with his whole body rather than a baton. Engaging black and white photographs combine with the text to highlight his tremendous contributions to the music world through conducting, composing, and writing classical music, as well as composing for musical theater such groundbreaking masterpieces as West Side Story. As a teacher he communicated the joy he felt about music through his innovative televised lectures, the Young People's Concerts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Quiveran on November 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Rubin provides a well-researched biography on the famous conductor, drawing us into the rare world of the classical music scene in the early part of the 20th century. She accomplishes this with fluid, readable prose appropriate for young readers and by detailing Bernstein's life in a series of interesting but relevant personal vignettes. Teachers and librarians will appreciate the solid biography and, to my experience, the most extensive sources of quotations in a book for this age range. The quotations and well chosen photographs of family, letters, concert programs, etc. give the story the stamp of authenticity and immediacy. The author's constant referral to the main subject as "Lenny" is a little off-putting to me (and might seem to young readers as "corny" ) as if he was her cousin. especially given the objective style of the narration but this is a minor quibble. Rubins's style, especially revealing use of photographs and quotations, have echoes of Russell Freedman and that is a compliment enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Experienced Editor VINE VOICE on April 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Music Was It traces the early life of a man who changed American music in many ways. Young Leonard Bernstein clung to his childhood dream of becoming a musician in spite of his father's strong disapproval. In the 1930s the field of classical music was dominated by old European men. Leonard was a young Jew from Massachusetts. Yet a fierce combination of hard work, determination, and luck brought him an amazing career as a composer and conductor. Leonard's daughter Jamie has written a touching foreword to Music Was It. The main text reads like an adventure story and features quotes from Leonard and people who knew him. Numerous photos are included in every chapter. The book ends with Leonard's triumphant debut conducting the New York Philharmonic at the age of 25, but an appendix offers further pleasures. A timeline of his life, thumbnail biographies of important people mentioned in the book, and a discography of his many recordings will lure readers to learn more of Leonard's fascinating story.
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