All three of my boys are growing up feeling very comfortable in a library. Our tiny suburb has placed a hefty importance on its local library as a place of learning, reading and community. I could not be more pleased. A, S and G spend as much weekly time at our local branch as they do at the grocery store, the park, or anywhere else for that matter. They have each known exactly what they are looking for when they walk through the doors, past the fish tank and into the children’s section. From an early age they learned where the early readers are located, where to find the biographies and which magazines are best. They know the names of their favorite authors and illustrators. This life-long bibliophile is proud.
So, it didn’t surprise me a few weeks ago when G suddenly remembered another book he wanted to check out. We were headed to the self-check area when he threw his hands up and suddenly exclaimed in a disappointed voice, “OH! I forgot to look for the book on Mozart!” Um, alright. Namely, I was a little surprised, because I was ignorant of the fact that he had even intended on looking for Mozart, or that he had ever thought about the Austrian composer. “Well, let’s go look him up on the computer,” I suggested. And thus was born my three-year-old’s love affair with the childhood biographies of dead, European composers.
The Famous Children series has quickly become his favorite. The books are written in a brief enough fashion that they hold his interest, yet provide enough detail for him to feel like he has learned something. Susan Hellard’s illustrations are slightly muted and charming. Ann Rachlin has written a single event, or short series of events, in the childhoods of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Haydn, Schumann, Schubert, Chopin and Tchaikovsky. There may be others, but these are the ones we have been able to lay our hands on. At the end of each book, Rachlin includes a list of operas, concertos, or ballets, as the case may be, for which the composer is most famous. G has been eager to locate so many of these pieces. Every time we check out one of these books from the library, he must also either check out a CD or dig through our own music collection to listen to the Brandenburg Concertos, or Beethoven’s Fifth.
Ann Rachlin and Susan Hellard have created these beautiful picture books to introduce young readers (and listeners) to the worlds of biography, music, history, geography and aspirations. “Mommy!” G breathlessly told me yesterday, “When I grow up I am going to play the violin, and you and Daddy will listen to me and be so proud of my music.” I love this. Realistically, who knows if he will care about playing a musical instrument in a few years, but I simply love the fact that he is excited about envisioning new fields of interest. He is learning to be passionate about what specifically interests him.