Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Little Schubert

A Little Schubert
M. B. Goffstein ~ Harper & Row, 1972

Anytime a children's book can blend the story of classical music with a bit of whimsy, I'm all for it. Better yet if that book is written and illustrated by the incomparable M. B. Goffstein. I could spend a lifetime in any of her books and never grow tired of their brilliant simplicity. Though they all seem to be out-of-print at the moment, the artist was prolific in drawing and writing children's books in the 1960s into the 1990s and won a Caldecott Honor in '77 for her book, Fish for Supper. She even wrote a handful of YA books.

Here, we have a short story about the Austrian composer, Franz Schubert; imaging what it must have been like to compose in the dead of winter, in a bare room with no fire.

But when the cold made his fingers ache, and he almost could not write his music, Franz Schubert got up. He clasped his hands and stamped his feet. He made his shabby coattails fly as he danced to keep warm.

Included are six of Schubert's twelve dances called "Noble Waltzes", written right before his death in 1828, and arranged by one-time Metropolitan Opera conductor, Richard Woitach; presented in full to help illustrated what it means to be musically inspired.

Goffstein's Website is one of the best author sites I've seen, mirrored after her quirky personality and minimalist sense of style. I particularly like one page that's an open letter to Victoria Thorne on How to Write and Illustrate a Picture Book; especially this passage...

What makes you think children like childish things?
Don't tell them how to be children.
They want to grow up.
Do them the honor of reaching for something far beyond you.
It won’t be noticeable but it will be felt.


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  1. Just picked up Fish for Supper at a thrift store over the summer and was thoroughly charmed. Nothing is so simple and small anymore, it would never sell...and I love her quote about picture books, I am putting it up on the wall at my library. Thanks!

  2. We had this book and loved it! I've never known anyone else who's even heard of it.

  3. I loved this book growing up! Now I'm a professional classical musician, and I like to think Goffstein had something to do with it. Definitely inspired a lifelong love of Schubert.