Brundibar

( 6 )

Overview

When Aninku and Pepicek discover one morning that their mother is sick, they rush to town for milk to make her better. Their attempt to earn money by singing is thwarted by a bullying, bellowing hurdy-gurdy grinder, Brundibar, who tyrannizes the town square and chases all other street musicians away. Befriended by three intelligent talking animals and three hundred helpful schoolkids, brother and sister sing for the money to buy the milk, defeat the bully, and triumphantly return home. Brundibar is based on a ...
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Overview

When Aninku and Pepicek discover one morning that their mother is sick, they rush to town for milk to make her better. Their attempt to earn money by singing is thwarted by a bullying, bellowing hurdy-gurdy grinder, Brundibar, who tyrannizes the town square and chases all other street musicians away. Befriended by three intelligent talking animals and three hundred helpful schoolkids, brother and sister sing for the money to buy the milk, defeat the bully, and triumphantly return home. Brundibar is based on a Czech opera for children that was performed fifty-five times by the children of Terezin, the Nazi concentration camp
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Legendary children's author Maurice Sendak and Tony Award winner Tony Kushner team up for a remarkable, thought-provoking retelling of a classic Czech opera with inspiring historical overtones -- the opera was performed 55 times by children in the Nazi concentration camp of Terezin. Along with Sendak's rich illustrations that hearken back to his classic style, Kushner recounts the story of Aninku and Pepicek, who go to town in search of milk for their sick mother. Unfortunately, the two children can't pay for the milk, but when they spot a singing Brundibar -- an organ grinder -- garnering lots of attention and raking in coins, they decide to try their own performance. The trouble is, no one can hear them, "all because of bellowing Brundibar." Forced into an alley after a frightening confrontation with the bullying organ grinder, they meet up with three animals who end up recruiting 300 children to help drive Brundibar away. Beginning with a bright atmosphere that soon turns dark and foreboding, Kushner and Sendak's tale is a solid, intense tour de force that weaves together Jewish history, hope, and the struggle between good and evil. (The last word is a note from Brundibar: "Bullies don't give up completely. One departs, the next appears, and we shall meet again, my dears!"). Kushner's language is bold and fluent, while Sendak never lets readers forget the broader significance of this tale, peppering the pages with Stars of David; signs and newspapers in Czech, German, and Hebrew; and Brundibar's companion monkey, who wears a German spiked helmet. A soul-stirring book that will touch readers of many generations on many levels. Matt Warner
Washington Post Book World
This tale, based on a 1938 Czech opera performed by children in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin, near Prague, is retold by playwright Tony Kushner, but it is pure Sendak just the same: multi-layered, quirky and more than a little didactic. For once, though, the moral is crystal clear: Bullies and tyrants are always with us, but they can be temporarily routed.

....On one level just a jaunty tale of a small-town bully's comeuppance, on another level Brundibar appears to be a parable of the Holocaust, the ultimate image of murderous oppression. Sendak's illustrations, among the best he has ever done, navigate between the two.

....Children won't grasp most of these symbols unaided, but they will sense the dark undercurrent in a general way -- and the chill rising off the final page, with its postcard from the vanquished Brundibar, promising to return, for "nothing ever works out neatly -- Bullies don't give up completely. One departs, the next appears." Luckily, we sense that Sendak's feisty urchins, in their rainbow-colored rags, will be ready for him. — Elizabeth Ward

The New York Times
Just when one might have thought that the most celebrated living picture-book artist could retire with his laurels, along comes Maurice Sendak's collaboration with Tony Kushner, Brundibar, a capering picture book crammed with melodramatic menace and comedy both low and grand. In a career that spans 50 years and counting, as Sendak's does, there are bound to be lesser works. Brundibar is not lesser than anything. — Gregory Maguire
Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Kushner adapts this allegorical tale from a Czech opera created by Hans Kr sa and Adolf Hoffmeister in 1938 (see Children's Books, Oct. 27). A doctor wearing the Star of David on his jacket dispatches siblings Aninku and Pepicek to town to find milk for their sick mother. Sendak, in a mix of fantasy and reality elements reminiscent of his In the Night Kitchen (especially the cameo appearance of a baker), thrusts the siblings-and readers-into an exotic backdrop of stone buildings topped by spires and turrets, but with familiar details such as a horse grazing behind a picket fence and a field of flowers. The two try to earn money to buy the milk, but their voices are drowned out by the noise of the "bellowing Brundibar"; Brundibar's refrain ("Little children, how I hate 'em/ How I wish the bedbugs ate 'em") exemplifies Kushner's skill at tempering the potentially frightening with the comic. The dialogue and comments featured in balloons above the characters also inject an appealing spontanaeity and levity to the proceedings. A trio of talking animals and 300 children come to the duo's aid. Working in colored pencils, crayons and brush pens, Sendak conjures bustling Slavic city streets and effectively juxtaposes innocence and evil in the cherubic visages of the children and Brundibar's ominously hyperbolic facial features (the villain's manicured mustache calls to mind the reigning tyrant of the time). Despite a final threat from Brundibar, the story is ultimately one of hope, as the children and their allies band together to defeat the evil foe. The collaborators wisely allow readers to appreciate the story on one level, yet those familiar with the opera's origins (a note in the flap copy tells of Kr sa's death at Auschwitz) will find a haunting subtext here. All ages. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Aninku and Pepicek rush to town because the doctor says that their sick mother must have milk. There they try to sing to earn money to buy it. But a nasty organ grinder thwarts their attempts. Helped by animals and a troupe of children, they sing until the money accumulated in their bucket buys the milk to make their mother well. The triumphant chorus of "the wicked never win" is particularly poignant because this story is based on a Czech opera performed by the children at the Terezin concentration camp; the text includes what must be the words to arias from that opera. And after the happy ending comes a chilling warning from the wicked Brundibar, "I'll be back." Sendak creates many delightful new characters, but also includes familiar faces from previous creations, all in his recognizable style. The full color illustrations appear as stage sets, with some text in speech balloons and a running commentary in upper case letters. The scenes are crowded with groups of townspeople and details of place (including yellow stars and skull caps on some of the crowd); they are of joy, of despair, of comic melodrama, rich with visual challenges. Do not miss the end-papers and the contrasting jacket and cover. 2003, Michael Di Capua Books/Hyperion Books for Children, Ages 4 up.
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
VOYA
The artistry and imagination of Sendak and Kushner elevate this picture book to a new level. It is based on a 1938 Czech opera that was composed by a prisoner of Terezin, the Nazi concentration camp. He eventually died in Auschwitz, but the piece was produced fifty-five times by the children of the camp. In the opera, a brother and sister run to town to get milk for their sick mother, but they have no money and the vendor will not give them milk. They notice the rich townspeople flinging coins at the hurdy-gurdy man, Brundibar, and they decide to sing as well, but Brundibar chases them away. Discouraged, they hide in an alley where a sparrow, a cat, and a dog encourage them to ask for help. When three hundred children come to help them sing a lullaby, they collect enough money to buy the milk. Hope is found because friendly children band together to stand up to the evil Brundibar. Kushner's story line complements Sendak's vivid pictures. Sendak's illustrations, however, are filled with symbols. Many children and adults have yellow stars sewn on their clothing; Brundibar's military uniform exudes power with its medals and iron crosses; his monkey wears a spiked military helmet; and the surrounding buildings include church spires and synagogues with the Star of David. The colors are bright, defying the darkness underneath; the details are infinite yet ironic. Is it a Holocaust book? It is a story about good triumphing over evil that any teacher can bring into the classroom for discussion. The words and pictures challenge the imagination and observation of all readers: What do these words mean? What does one see in these pictures? One might first ask why the Nazis would allow this opera tobe performed at Terezin fifty-five times. It is an amazing book to share with secondary students. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Michael Di Capua Books/Hyperion, 56p., Ages 11 to 18.
—Sarah K. Herz, Guest Reviewer
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 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This brilliant and disturbing rendition of an old Czech opera honors history in a stunning piece of art. A small brother and sister need money to buy milk for their sick mother, but singing in the town square is impossible because bully Brundibar claims the territory. Adults throwing money at Brundibar's "bellowing" can't hear Pepicek and Aninku at all; when the children challenge him by turning briefly into bears, the masses declare "Call the cop!" and "No bears on the square! It's the law!" Brundibar's alarming song gets louder and scarier until Pepicek and Aninku run away. They hide in a gloomy alley (reminiscent of We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy) until 300 children arrive and help them triumph over evil Brundibar. The original opera, written in 1938, was performed by children in Terezin who were awaiting transport to Nazi death camps. Kushner's stellar rhythmic text sticks to the opera's storyline, while Sendak's incredible illustrations sprinkle in horrifying historical details as well as references to earlier Sendak masterworks. Though there's far more here than a simple metaphor, the occasional yellow stars on clothing and an "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign (recalling the entrance to Auschwitz) make the Holocaust unavoidably present for readers who recognize such symbols. Other readers will find comfort in the sunny beginning and end, but will still see darkness, danger, and Brundibar's threat to return. Sendak and Kushner complement each other perfectly as they merge merriness with tragedy and political commentary. A heartbreaking, hopeful masterpiece with powerful implications for contemporary readers. (Picture book. 8+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786809042
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 10/30/2003
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 246,263
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Maurice Sendak
Maurice Sendak
Sometimes dark, sometimes gleefully silly, but always inventive, intelligent, and colorful, Maurice Sendak’s imaginatively illustrated children’s books never forget their audience. Although his classic Where the Wild Things Are was criticized upon its initial publication for being too frightening, children responded with enthusiasm to both its wonderfully zany artwork as well as to its honesty. Forty years later, they still do.

Biography

"I never wrote a book where I taught a lesson," Maurice Sendak once bragged in an interview. Fans of his lyrical, lushly illustrated picture books know Sendak has a far more important mission. Rather than instructing his young readers in proper manners, the man who's been called "the Picasso of children's books" has been a vital, expressive voice for children's feelings.

Sendak first honed his art as an illustrator for writers like Ruth Krauss and Else Holmelund Minarek. He explored different styles of drawing and painting, influenced by sources as diverse as William Blake, Randolph Caldecott and Walt Disney.

In the '50s and early '60s, Sendak began to write his own books, and to forge his own distinctive visual style. The most popular of the works produced in what he later called his "apprenticeship period" was The Nutshell Library, a collection of four tiny books (2 1/2 by 4 inches wide) that was instantly and enduringly popular.

His first mature work, Where the Wild Things Are (1963), was a watershed both in Sendak's career and the history of children's literature. It tells the story of a boy named Max, whose mother sends him to his room without supper, calling him a "wild thing." Max makes an imaginary journey to a land of monsters, where he's crowned King of All Wild Things. But his longing for comfort and security return him at last to his room, where he finds his supper waiting for him. Some adults were dismayed by the book's ferocious-looking monsters and its belligerent young hero. "It is not a book to be left where a sensitive child may come upon it at twilight," one librarian cautioned.

Despite the warnings, Where the Wild Things Are was a huge commercial success, and was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1964. In his acceptance speech, Sendak seemed to address his critics when he said that despite adults' desires to protect children from "painful experiences," the fact is "that from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, that fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, that they continually cope with frustration as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things."

In the following years, Sendak illustrated dozens of books, and wrote and illustrated several more of his own, including In the Night Kitchen (1970) and Outside Over There (1981), which he considered to be the second and third parts of a trilogy that began with Where the Wild Things Are. A lover of theatre, he has also designed and produced numerous operas, plays and ballets.

Though his work has sometimes been controversial, Sendak is now renowned for his ability to recall, depict and transform the painful realities of childhood into what John Gardner, reviewing one of Sendak's books, called "not an ordinary children's book done extraordinarily well, but something different in kind from an ordinary children's book: a profound work of art for children."

Good To Know

In 1948, Maurice Sendak and his brother Jack took six model toys to the toy store F.A.O. Schwarz, which they hoped would commission a set. The store turned down the toys, but offered Maurice a job as a window display designer, which he took.

Sendak wrote Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life, in tribute to his beloved dog. The book's protagonist, like Sendak's pet, is a Sealyham terrier named Jennie. Years later, Sendak got a German shepherd, who already had a name when he adopted it. The dog was named Max, just like Sendak's most famous character.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Maurice Bernard Sendak (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Ridgefield, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 10, 1928
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      Art Students' League

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2010

    Cuter than expected once you read it

    I have read this pretty while back and loved it. It's by same author as 'Where the Wild Things Are', but somehow not as well known for some reason. I actually liked this book a lot more and ended up purchasing it to donate it to needy child. It's actually very cute!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2003

    Good vs. Evil

    The book is filled with Jewish symbolism for those who are old enough to find it. I saw some of the darkness of Where The Wild Things Are and the humor from In The Night Kitchen. Isn't it wonderful how the 300 children arise to the occasion to show there is always hope.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2003

    A timely book giving direction to our children

    This book is a masterpiece. My children have an opportunity to experience a new Sendak classic, just as I experienced Where The Wild Things Are. It seems that Sendak is using a different style here, not seen before. I really like Tony Kushner's text, very accessible to children, and he handled heavy matter vey deftly

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    Posted July 29, 2009

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    Posted November 20, 2009

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    Posted October 18, 2009

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