In an intimate tribute to musical prodigy Maria Anna Mozart (sister of Wolfgang Amadeus), Rusch organizes biographical passages into sonata movements, with musical terms used to mark events in Maria's life. When they were children, Wolfgang and Maria played recitals together all over Europe. But eventually Maria is left behind, later raising a family, but still devoted to the piano. An air of sadness permeates: in a section titled "Fermata (In which everything stops)," Maria's piano warps in the frigid weather, and in "Cadenza," Maria weeps for Wolfgang, who dies "so young." Rusch's rich prose and Johnson and Fancher's lavishly detailed collages—melding paint, paper, fabrics, and weathered musical notation—seamlessly blend to form a moving portrait of an unsung musician. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)
Starred Review, “Rusch's rich prose and Johnson and Fancher's lavishly detailed collages … seamlessly blend to form a moving portrait of an unsung musician.” Publishers Weekly, December 20, 2010: Review, Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2011: "This is an extraordinarily constructed work: Rusch … illuminates in simple but vivid terms how important music was to Maria … Johnson and Fancher echo the elegant construction of the text … so every image is full of texture and heft."
Review, "This beautiful book is marketed for children ages 5-8; however, it is a masterpiece, resonating with all lovers of music, regardless of age." Portland Oregonian, March 13, 2011:
Rusch explores the life of Maria Anna Mozart, sister of the famous composer, dividing the narrative into sections labeled with notations from music. In descriptive prose she tells how Maria eagerly played the piano for her interested little brother. By the time she is ten, they are playing concerts together throughout Europe, and she has helped Wolfgang write out his first symphony. But soon Maria is left home to shop and mend, still performing and composing a bit, while Wolfgang tours alone. She continues to love music and play her piano even after she marries, moves out into the country, and raises five stepchildren. After Wolfgang and her husband die, Maria returns to Salzburg to play piano and teach. For illustrations that set this bit of history in its visual context, the artists employed fabric, paper, and acrylic and oil paints for collage and naturalistic paintings of the characters, costumes, and settings. Of special interest is the use of pieces of music to depict pianos and a carriage. Much information is included in the simply told story. There are also notes on the vocabulary, and on the sonata form used as the framework for the tale. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
The older sister of the composer Mozart was a child prodigy herself and toured with her little brother to great acclaim across 18th-century Europe. She wrote down his first symphony when they were in England. But soon it was just the young Wolfgang who played before adoring crowds. Mozart died at 35, and Maria married and raised five stepchildren and several of her own, but she continued to play and teach. This is an extraordinarily constructed work: Rusch uses the form of a sonata to tell her story, dividing it into movements and indicating tempi and other musical notations. She illuminates in simple but vivid terms how important music was to Maria and how she kept learning and exploring her art based on such sources as Mozart's own letters, as she left no music or writing behind. Johnson and Fancher echo the elegant construction of the text by making their pictures in fabric and paper as well as oil and acrylic, so every image is full of texture and heft. (notes on language and music, biographical note, bibliography)
(Picture book/biography. 5-9)
Gr 2–4—Maria Anna Walpurga Ignatia Mozart was a musical prodigy in her own right and shared considerable childhood fame with her younger brother, Wolfgang. This picture-book biography quickly sketches the siblings' close relationship and their long European concert tour and then goes on to tell in greater detail about her quiet growing-up and adult years as her brother quickly rose to prominence. Rusch organizes the account into short segments labeled with musical terms designating the units of a sonata—"The First Movement," "Allegro," "Development," "Cadenza," "Finale." The concluding author's note, "Encore," is a two-page biography threaded with explanations of the 18th-century limitations on women's participation in the music world. Johnson and Fancher add warmth and texture to the story, blending collage and painting on canvas. Costumes and backgrounds incorporate brocade fragments, and bits of music scores frame carriages, musical instruments, and building features. Text is on inset pages that appear to be crumbling and fading, as though taken from a very old book. Catherine Brighton's picture book Mozart, Scenes from the Childhood of the Great Composer (Doubleday, 1990) is narrated by Nannerl, as she was called by her family, and gives a richer account of the famous childhood tour. Maria's long, relatively uneventful life, emphasized here, is hardly the remarkable story promised in the subtitle, but this attractive book offers a peek at women's history and will serve where more is needed on the Mozarts.—Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston