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The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert and Sullivan


Caldecott Medalist Richard Egielski teams up with Jonah Winter for a story of friendship, fights, and musical comedy!

Welcome to Topsy-Turvydom, a magical kingdom (well, more like an opera stage) full of pirates, policemen, fairies, and fake mustaches! Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Sullivan have ruled this kingdom together in peace, but one day, Mr. Sullivan decides he's had enough. Every opera they write is the same silly old story, and he's ready for ...

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Caldecott Medalist Richard Egielski teams up with Jonah Winter for a story of friendship, fights, and musical comedy!

Welcome to Topsy-Turvydom, a magical kingdom (well, more like an opera stage) full of pirates, policemen, fairies, and fake mustaches! Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Sullivan have ruled this kingdom together in peace, but one day, Mr. Sullivan decides he's had enough. Every opera they write is the same silly old story, and he's ready for something different. Something serious!
Mr. Gilbert is stunned. He's lost his business partner and his best friend, and he needs a brilliant idea in order to get him back.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Covering much of the same ground as Mike Lee's marvelous 1999 biopic Topsy-Turvy(with a G-rated filter, of course), Winter (Barack) and Egielski (The End) present the backstory of The Mikado. The storytelling gets off to a slow start; Winter first lets readers know that "jolly old England was not so jolly" (an early spread includes a Dickensian scene of a workhouse), then gives a somewhat tortured explanation of "topsy-turvy" that will confuse children unfamiliar with the pair's oeuvre (fans, on the other hand, may not appreciate the subtle dissing of The Pirates of Penzance and other works). It's only at midpoint that the narrative gains any momentum, as Gilbert's Japanese-fueled inspiration persuades Sullivan to collaborate on the work that will become their masterpiece. Unfortunately, Egielski's pictures never take flight; while his textured watercolors feel theatrical and he dutifully incorporates the ornate detailing and eccentricities of Victorian life, the images remain flat. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Erika Clark
Topsy-Turvydom is a magical fun-filled opera where characters can be as wacky and show the silliest acts for the England crowds. Mr. Gilbert wrote the operas while Mr. Sullivan conducted them in order to give the repetitive silly stories a musical atmosphere. Mr. Sullivan had bigger plans for the operas and desired to write more serious music outside of the impractical box Mr. Gilbert was accustomed to. Then one day Mr. Gilbert went to Mr. Sullivan to express a new idea for another show, but his friend and partner became so upset that he was rude to Mr. Gilbert. Their differences forced Mr. Gilbert to think of new creative ideas to save his friendship and branch out from his old thoughts. Incorporating Japanese culture and art, Mr. Gilbert satisfied his friend and they both set to work on a grand new piece portraying their best work ever. Richard Egielski uses detailed imagery with a wide spectrum of basic colors to give the text a clear image of the message. The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert & Sullivan is wonderful literature that explains the writing process in an exuberant manner and displays proper ways to brainstorm new ideas when working in a group. Relating to all types of group work, this literature also demonstrates how students can put their differences aside to reach a common goal. Reviewer: Erika Clark
School Library Journal

Gr 1-4

Winter and Egielski succeed admirably in making the relationship between a Victorian librettist and a composer of comic operas accessible to children. More astonishing still is that the silliness and drama are rooted in reality, as revealed in the author's note. Readers initially encounter the dark cloud of poverty that characterized this period. The mood is lifted at the "topsy-turvy" world of the opera, but it quickly becomes evident that Sullivan is tired of the same old silly situations: "Fairies with battery-operated wings got married to stuffy old men in bad wigs." Hearing Gilbert's next idea, Sullivan snaps. The two are at an impasse, until Gilbert stumbles on a Japanese street fair that provides the exotic new setting needed to renew the friendship and conceive The Mikado . The pirate, sailor, constable, and kimono-clad woman interacting on the cover will draw children inside, across the dedication page, and into the theater, where this slice of history unfolds in the foreground, as if on a stage, framed by changing proscenium arches, architectural models, or spotlights. Winter balances interesting descriptions, juvenile arguing, and funny details, such as the names that Gilbert penned, e.g., "Titipu" and "Yum-Yum." Egielski notes that his watercolor and ink scenes draw inspiration from Peter Max, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Hiroshige, among others. (Sendak's influence is discernable, too.) There are surprises around each corner, from the miniature stage and simple wooden dolls that Gilbert used to test his ideas to the same scene realized as a vibrant Japanese finale. A class act.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
Author and illustrator set the opening scene as impeccably as their subjects: Life in Victorian England is grim. Even the Queen frowns as her coach drives through the dreary rain. But there is one place where life is brighter. A quick page turn reveals the light, topsy-turvy world of the opera stage. Winter explains that the opera is where "grown-ups acted silly, and everything got very, very, very confused." And oh boy, did it ever. One day Gilbert and Sullivan, the famed lyricist/composer duo, get into an argument. Sullivan accuses Gilbert of writing the same opera over and over. With grumps and grumbles and scowls on their faces, they refuse to work with each other anymore. However, out of the argument comes the inspiration for The Mikado. Lessons of friendship and forgiveness slip in, and Egielski's saturated, theatrical tableaux add warmth and weight, but the intended audience is as perplexing as, well, a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Budding maestros will enjoy this dramatic tale, but youngsters unable to place the context may not relate much to these two mustached men. (author's note, website) (Informational picture book. 6-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439930505
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/15/2009
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 981,158
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD640L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonah Winter has written many exciting picture book biographies for children, with subjects that include Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Barack Obama, and Dizzy Gillespie. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA.

Richard Egielski received the 1987 Caldecott Medal for HEY, AL, story by Arthur Yorinks, and he has also illustrated texts by Pam Conrad, Margie Palatini, David LaRochelle, and Jonah Winter. The books he has both written and illustrated include BUZ and JAZPER, both named Best Illustrated Children's Books of the year by The New York Times.

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