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What Charlie Heard

by Mordicai Gerstein

Published by Frances Foster Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002
40 pages
ISBN: 0-374-38292-1

Ages 5 - 9

"Charles Ives was born with his ears wide open," begins Modicai Gerstein's rousing picture book biography of the singular American composer. The lively narrative is full of the sounds that Charlie heard from his infancy through his boyhood and adulthood to the final years of his life. The text incorporates a catalog of sounds on page after page as the story moves forward with energy and ease ("He heard his father's fiddle and the spring peepers. He heard church bells, fire truck bells, the ice cream's man's bell, and the train's bell and whistle."). The backdrop for the words on each two-page spread is Gerstein's exceptional artwork, in which a cacophony of sounds are incorporated into the images of Ives's life ("Ratattat," "Riinng!" "Whooooooosh"). When Ives's beloved father died, Gerstein writes, "Charlie heard a great silence." The page is silent, too–the absence of "noise" heightening children's understanding of the emotional impact of that event. As Ives grew older and his compositions began to be played, some of the sounds he heard were the responses of listeners who weren't ready for his unique and brilliant music: "Insulting! Horrible! Noise!" But he lived long enough to see attitudes begin to change. Gerstein's volume is an invitation to young readers and listeners to open their ears to the world around them, and to Ives's music, too. CCBC Categories: Biography and Autobiography.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center


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