Handel, Who Knew What He Liked: Candlewick Biographies

Overview

A droll biography reveals the high notes—and the low notes—in the life of the world’s foremost composer of Baroque music.

This is not your usual picture book biography. Nor was George Frideric Handel your everyday eighteenth-century composer. This witty and yet rigorously researched and accessible biography captures Handel’s essential spirit—from a child who smuggled a clavichord into the attic to play music against his father’s orders to a young man who imported forty-five ...

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Overview

A droll biography reveals the high notes—and the low notes—in the life of the world’s foremost composer of Baroque music.

This is not your usual picture book biography. Nor was George Frideric Handel your everyday eighteenth-century composer. This witty and yet rigorously researched and accessible biography captures Handel’s essential spirit—from a child who smuggled a clavichord into the attic to play music against his father’s orders to a young man who imported forty-five pounds of mountain snow to chill wine for a gala—as well as his remarkable, enduring musical triumphs. But M. T. Anderson also shows Handel’s struggles and chronicles the illness, ill fortune, and despair that led to his greatest achievement, the Messiah. With impeccable detail and a wink at the reader, Kevin Hawkes illustrates the singular story of Handel and the music through which he lives on.

In this biography, the man who would later compose some of the world's most beautiful music is shown to have once been a stubborn little boy with a mind of his own.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
When a National Book Award-winning author (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation) teams up with a Kate Greenaway Medal-winning illustrator (Westlandia) on a chapter book biography of one of the greatest composers in the history of music, wonderful things can happen. Anderson focuses his presentation of Handel’s life on the young musician’s resoluteness in pursuing his musical dream: as a boy, Handel smuggled a clavichord up into the attic for secret practice, wangled himself a trip to the duke’s castle to play on his organ, and engaged in a near-fatal duel with a dear friend over whose turn it was to play the harpsichord during an opera performance. The text is hilariously funny, as in this description of Handel’s operas: “The costumes would be strange and ornate, with plumes, capes, and gems. The characters would sing arias in Italian, some of the most beautiful music ever heard onstage. Then they would stab each other.” But it is also deeply moving, as we see Handel sick, discouraged, “out of money,” and “out of luck,” composing his most enduring masterpiece, Messiah. Hawkes’s accompanying paintings have the rich feeling of work by Old Masters, but with their own wry touches (e.g., a portrait on the wall expresses surprise at the clavichord-smuggling). This is about as satisfying as a biography for younger readers can be. Includes a discography, a bibliography, and an index. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D. AGERANGE: Ages 7 to 10.
Publishers Weekly
In this wittily irreverent picture-book biography, the legendary baroque composer is vividly brought to life. "You'd have to be sure of yourself to wear a wig that gigantic," the author points out archly on the first page, commenting on an accompanying portrait of George Frideric himself. Meanwhile, perched above the ornately decorated text box, a fly (as in "fly on the wall") looks on. This sort of sassy visual and verbal repartee sets the tone for a fresh and funny take on history, and Anderson (Burger Wuss) does a bang-up job of condensing and explaining the major (and more colorful minor) events of the composer's larger-than-life career. For his part, Hawkes has a field day slipping in sly visual asides, including an ancestral portrait that looks down in surprise at the young Handel smuggling a clavichord past his disapproving parents, and a pair of feuding divas in a catfight. Like all grand opera, there's pathos as well, most particularly in the events surrounding the writing of the "Messiah," and Hawkes's lush and sweeping acrylic paintings pick up on the more poignant as well as the puckish elements. The author comically debunks popular myths as well, such as the tradition of a standing ovation during the "Hallelujah Chorus" originating with the king: "This story is almost certainly not true, but it is a good story nonetheless." Unobtrusive sidebars explain a variety of musical terminology, and a discography and timeline of Handel's life are also included. These gifted collaborators deserve a Hallelujah Chorus of their own for this volume, as well as a request for a speedy encore. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
"In this irreverent picture-book biography, the legendary baroque composer is vividly brought to life," wrote PW in a starred review. "These gifted collaborators deserve a Hallelujah Chorus of their own." Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
George Frideric Handel is not a composer I would have picked to feature in a children's picture book, but Anderson and Hawkes have done an excellent job of creating a book that will appeal to kids. The light touch to what could be a very heavy subject is apparent in the opening spread. Handel is shown with a servant smuggling a clavichord up the stairs to the attic of his house. A family ancestor looks out in disbelief from a portrait in a gilded frame. Because Handel's father was adamant that music was not the path to success, he would not let his son study music. Undeterred, Handle taught himself to play. From this point on, the book follows Handel's long and not always so easy life as a musician and composer. Readers will chuckle over the illustrations of young Handel and his wigs and note that he lived life to its fullest, even ordering forty-five pounds of snow from the mountains to chill his wine. For a while, his operas were all the rage, but producing them and putting up with temperamental stars and shifting audience tastes became too difficult and too costly. However, Handel was never one to give up. As if possessed, he began composing a new work. It was the Messiah, and it was a huge success. More than 250 years later, the Messiah is still being performed. A brief chronology of Handel's life, a discography and a bibliography wrap up this beautiful package. 2001, Candlewick, $16.99. Ages 7 up. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-In this picture-book biography, both illustration and text are characterized by a saucy style, impeccable pacing, and a richness of content, and the two harmonize splendidly in a manner befitting the subject. Anderson's words and anecdotes are well chosen, and his sense of timing heightens impact whether describing mischievous childhood antics of the classical composer (the boy smuggling a clavichord past unsuspecting parents) or solemn occasions (the circumstances surrounding the creation and performances of the Messiah). The author is also adept at conveying the spirit and flavor of Handel's music. Hawkes's highly textured acrylics manage to combine depth and drama with a great sense of fun. Double-page spreads display a shimmering River Thames during a performance of Water Music as well as ornate opera halls and drawing rooms. Close inspection of the scenes and the elaborately carved frames surrounding the text reveal comedic cameos. The attention to detail extends to a whimsical, scrolled Latin copyright message and graceful gold arabesques on the endpapers. Clear definitions of technical terms are embedded in decorative panels throughout. This performance is worthy of a standing ovation.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Readers don't need to know anything about the composer to enjoy this lively biography, but it is hard to imagine anyone reading these pages who wouldn't want to run right out to hear the "Water Music" or a snatch of the "Messiah." Handel's father didn't want him to be a musician, but the boy snuck a clavichord into the attic and practiced in secret anyway. ("Not everyone has the courage to smuggle a clavichord past their parents.") Thanks to the intervention of a noble, Handel was allowed to begin training, but as a compromise, was forced to study law as well. He studied in various places in Germany, where he was born, traveled in Italy, but settled in England to write opera. As Anderson (Burger Wuss, 1999, etc.) describes Handel's operas, "The characters would sing arias in Italian, some of the most beautiful music ever heard onstage. Then they would stab each other." Handel's duel with a friend, the success of the "Water Music" and the disaster of the "Royal Fireworks," and the final and continuous triumph of the "Messiah" are energetically reported in a light-hearted accounting. Hawkes (Dial-a-Ghost, p. 741, etc.) employs 18th-century borders and patterns in his fulsomely colored acrylics: light and shadow are used to excellent effect, and humorous touches abound. Handel himself, with his cherubic face and large fuzzy white wig, bounds from almost every page, fairly glowing with good will and music. (chronology, discography, further adult reading) (Biography. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763665999
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 9/10/2013
  • Series: Candlewick Biographies Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 1,388,433
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 12.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

M. T. Anderson is the author of the young adult novels THIRSTY and BURGER WUSS and a faculty member of Vermont College’s MFA Program in Writing for Children. About HANDEL, WHO KNEW WHAT HE LIKED, he says, "As a child, I loved Handel’s music, because it seemed to suggest that humans are a noble race, full of reason and gentility. Then I got to high school."

Kevin Hawkes is the illustrator of a number of popular books for children, including WESLANDIA, THE LIBRARIAN WHO MEASURED THE EARTH, MARVEN OF THE GREAT NORTH WOODS, and PAINTING THE WIND: A STORY OF VINCENT VAN GOGH. He says, "I loved illustrating this book, though it was quite a challenge—Handel’s music is so beautiful and powerful, and his life was so complex. I hope I’ve done him justice."

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