Barbara Mitchell's Raggin' and America I Hear You, and Tom Streissguth's Say It With Music, are story-form biographies (there's a little dialogue) which make fine introductions to composers Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, and Irving Berlin, respectively, for intermediate grade readers. Part of the "Creative Minds biographies" series.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-This vividly written book is at once the story of the famous composer and of an early 20th-century immigrant's experience. Streissguth clearly paints a picture of New York's Lower East Side and of the milieu in which Israel Baline developed into the songwriter, Irving Berlin. It's an intriguing story, and one that Streissguth makes readable and enjoyable. By describing the components of Berlin's successful songs, readers gain an understanding of the popular music business of the time. Hagerman's black-and-white sketches enhance the text with excellent likenesses of the subject, as well as with contemporary scenes. Though youngsters may not be familiar with Berlin, this book would be a good read to satisfy a biography assignment and is a fine choice to replace David Ewen's The Story of Irving Berlin (Holt, 1950; o.p.), which contains some racial slurs.-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Though Irving Berlin's name and most of his music may be unfamiliar to children, his story has relevance given the emerging emphasis in schools on the experiences and contributions of immigrants to America. Left homeless by the pogroms in the 1890s, Berlin's family emigrated from Russia, landed at Ellis Island, and settled in Manhattan. His talent for music led him from the bars of the Bowery, where he sang to support himself when he was 14, to a songwriting career that brought him fame, fortune, and even happiness. The book covers more than 30 years, the rags-to-riches period, though an afterword fills in readers on the rest of Berlin's life. Softly shaded, fine-line pencil drawings, some with a photographic quality, appear at several-page intervals throughout the book. While shorter than most biographies for children, this could still use an index. A good, concise biography accessible to many children.