Mozart: The Wonder Child

Overview

Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart was only three years old?not much bigger than his name?on the day his life changed forever.

So begins this vivid biography about one of the most legendary prodigies in history. Award-winning author and illustrator Diane Stanley engagingly tells the story of a brilliant boy who grew up to be a complex and often troubled young man?a man who composed some of the most beautiful music of all time.

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Overview

Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart was only three years old—not much bigger than his name—on the day his life changed forever.

So begins this vivid biography about one of the most legendary prodigies in history. Award-winning author and illustrator Diane Stanley engagingly tells the story of a brilliant boy who grew up to be a complex and often troubled young man—a man who composed some of the most beautiful music of all time.

With stunning and expressive illustrations, she portrays Mozart's turbulent life as a marionette show, inspired by the famous Salzburg Marionette Theatre, using an innovative artistic approach to present the life of a renowned musical genius. In concise and lyrical prose, Stanley presents an honest and sympathetic portrait of the boyhood and tragically short adulthood of a composer whose music has lived on for more than two hundred years.

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Editorial Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“As with Stanley’s other biographical works, she manages a neat overview of her subject’s life in surprisingly few pages; audiences will particularly appreciate her focus on Mozart the kid and the family that never quite forgave him for growing up and striking out of his town.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"As with Stanley’s other biographical works, she manages a neat overview of her subject’s life in surprisingly few pages; audiences will particularly appreciate her focus on Mozart the kid and the family that never quite forgave him for growing up and striking out of his town."
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“As with Stanley’s other biographical works, she manages a neat overview of her subject’s life in surprisingly few pages; audiences will particularly appreciate her focus on Mozart the kid and the family that never quite forgave him for growing up and striking out of his town.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“As with Stanley’s other biographical works, she manages a neat overview of her subject’s life in surprisingly few pages; audiences will particularly appreciate her focus on Mozart the kid and the family that never quite forgave him for growing up and striking out of his town.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“As with Stanley’s other biographical works, she manages a neat overview of her subject’s life in surprisingly few pages; audiences will particularly appreciate her focus on Mozart the kid and the family that never quite forgave him for growing up and striking out of his town.”
Publishers Weekly

Inspired by the Salzberg Marionette Theatre, Stanley (Joan of Arc) frames this engaging and well-paced biography of Mozart as a three-act puppet play. Sprinklings of dialogue and witty anecdotes-such as the prank Mozart plays on a singer mid-performance-flesh out the life of this wunderkind ("What a strange and magical childhood it must have been for Wolfgang... being praised, petted, and covered with kisses by the greatest nobles of Europe"). Painting gessoed wood panels with egg tempera in soft tones, Stanley achieves an authentic sense of place, while augmenting the historic mood with musical staffs that wind through the scenes and informational asides presented by angels. While the three-act structure serves the through story well, some may find the marionette strings attached to every character distracting. Endnotes include an extensive chronology of Mozart's life. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
Diane Stanley has written and illustrated eleven other picture book biographies before this work about Mozart. The story of his life is told in the third-person, but from Mozart's perspective. The subtitle may seem confusing as the story is written as a narrative and not as a dramatization. However, the text makes it clear that the "acts" are the three stages of Mozart's life. Stanley begins with childhood and the enormous pressure Mozart's father put on the child genius to be the family's ticket to fame and fortune. She continues to early manhood, in which Mozart is trapped in Salzburg trying to satisfy his patron, the prince archbishop. The final phase was his final golden years, in which Mozart took the strings of his beautiful music into his own hands. However, his life was tragically cut short at the age of 35. Stanley's egg tempera paintings on gessoed wood panels are stunning. She uses captioned sidenotes to gloss terms such as "patron" or "pianoforte" or provide additional facts that would encumber the narrative. Middle school classrooms are likely to find much to talk about, triggered by the structure of the book as well as by the solid information about the music for which Mozart is famous. Backmatter includes a chronology and a bibliography. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal

Gr 2-5

Stanley brings meticulous research and creative visual treatments to her biographies; this 18th-century prodigy offers fertile grist for her mill. In extensive back matter, the author explains that she chose to portray the characters as marionettes after a trip to the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, a group that frequently performs simplified versions of Mozart's operas. The visible white strings may take some explanation for a young audience, but the staged effects, from the opening curtain to the suspended cherubs carrying footnotes (parenthetical comments or definitions), are well suited to the story of a man who spent most of his life performing or composing. Stanley divides Mozart's life into three acts. The first begins with his interest in lessons at age three and follows him on a European tour with his musical father and sister. In the second act, the arrogant young man, no longer a wunderkind, is dismissed by his employer and estranged from his father. During the finale, viewers meet Mozart's wife and children, learn a humorous anecdote regarding The Magic Flute , and discover the composer's tragic and untimely demise. The quoted material is carefully contextualized; one has the sense that the comments are taken from actual letters, although this is not documented. Transcriptions of melodic lines from famous works appear throughout. Stanley's golden palette is achieved with egg tempera on wooden panels. Natural accompaniments include Kyra Teis's The Magic Flute (Star Bright, 2008) and Peter Sís's whimsical Play, Mozart, Play! (HarperCollins, 2006).-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
At three, Mozart heard his older sister play the clavier and copied her. At four, he began to write music, and, at five, he taught himself to play the violin. Soon their father toured them across Europe. Stanley vividly depicts royal adulation in Salzburg and abroad, travel discomforts of the 18th century and the rise and fall of fame, never stinting on family tensions or the hard work of making music as she covers her subject's brief life. Her exceptional paintings are done in egg tempera, a medium that makes for glowing, stylized images, and she intensifies that formal, stately look by presenting her visual account as a puppet play. All the figures appear as if made of cardboard, with strings directing their movement. Bars of Mozart's music decorate the pages, and asterisk-like musical notes in the text lead the eye to small scrolls, held by puppet putti, that explain such terms as "patron" or "libretto." An excellent introduction that will lead older children (and adults) to the music. (author's notes, chronology, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060726744
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/27/2009
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 639,721
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Diane Stanley is the author and illustrator of beloved books for young readers, including The Silver Bowl, which received three starred reviews, was named a best book of the year by Kirkus Reviews and Book Links Lasting Connections, and was an ALA Booklist Editors' Choice; The Cup and the Crown; Saving Sky, winner of the Arab American Museum's Arab American Book Award and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year; Bella at Midnight, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and an ALA Booklist Editors' Choice; The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy; The Mysterious Matter of I. M. Fine; and A Time Apart.

Ms. Stanley has also written and illustrated numerous picture books, including three creatively reimagined fairy tales. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Diane Stanley is the author and illustrator of beloved books for young readers, including The Silver Bowl, which received three starred reviews, was named a best book of the year by Kirkus Reviews and Book Links Lasting Connections, and was an ALA Booklist Editors' Choice; The Cup and the Crown; Saving Sky, winner of the Arab American Museum's Arab American Book Award and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year; Bella at Midnight, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and an ALA Booklist Editors' Choice; The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy; The Mysterious Matter of I. M. Fine; and A Time Apart.

Ms. Stanley has also written and illustrated numerous picture books, including three creatively reimagined fairy tales. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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  • Posted September 4, 2011

    Gentle Learning At Its Finest

    Our home school is back in session.

    Each year we study three composers. (One per twelve-week term.)

    And this year we kick it off with Mozart.

    We listen to Mozart and we try to read a handful of books about the composer - if they're available.

    And it's often pretty hard to locate great kid reading material about dead composers that doesn't read as if it's dead itself.

    Enter Diane Stanley's Mozart - The Wonder Child: A Puppet Play in Three Acts.

    I stumbled across this gem at our public library.

    I was delighted (Yes. Delighted.) when I saw this little book on the shelf written by Diane Stanley.

    I already love Diane Stanley. We read her Joan of Arc last year. Piled on this year's stack are her books about Shakespeare and DaVinci.

    She's just good.

    Her writing is accessible, the right amount of funny, completely factual and delivered in the form of a story that makes a kid (and a grown up) want to listen.

    And she illustrates her own work as well.

    And it's terrific. Always adding to the story, never detracting.

    This Mozart book is written in three stages - like a play in three acts.

    And the drawings are as if the entire story is a puppet play with marionettes.

    Imaginative. Beautiful. And the very definition of "gentle learning".

    London laughed when Mozart climbed into the empress' lap and kissed him. Bergen couldn't believe someone would steal Mozart's music. And I learned that Mozart actually never referred to himself as "Amadeus" despite the fact that we know him with that title now.

    This book - I love it.

    I'm sad that I have to return it to the library.

    Or maybe I don't.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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