weather icon Clear

‘Before There Was Mozart’ is a tale for all ages

Many, many years from now, you’re going to be a major-league ball player, or a concert pianist, maybe a ballerina or a singer with a band.

That’s because you spend a lot of time practicing. Though it’s sometimes hard and not always fun, practice makes perfect and you want to be as perfect as possible when you’re a ball player, pianist, ballerina or singer.

Throughout his life, a young boy named Joseph practiced his violin, but only when he wasn’t exploring. In the new book “Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George,” you’ll read a story that’s somewhat hidden by history.

It was breezy on Christmas Day 1739, and the slaves who worked the sugar fields were preparing to celebrate the holiday. But up in the main house, the owner of the West Indies plantation was awaiting the birth of a child.

The baby was named Joseph because it was Christmas, and the midwife predicted that someday he’d meet the king and queen of France. Joseph’s mother, Nanon, a slave born in Senegal, was just happy that the boy was healthy.

On the plantation, Joseph loved to play with other slave children, even though he was not one of them. As the only child of a slave and her master, he wasn’t made to work; instead, he was allowed to wander the island and explore, and when Joseph’s mother went to town, he usually went along. It was in town that he fell in love with music.

But life wasn’t all play. Monsieur Plato, the plantation’s overseer, was also Joseph’s tutor, and Monsieur ended each lesson with violin practice. By the time he was 9 years old and had e migrated to France with his parents, Joseph — whose father eventually gave him the name of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George — was known as a talented violinist.

As Joseph grew, he loved the violin more and more. He started composing and performing: unknowingly, before Wolfgang Mozart, and later — fulfilling the prophec y made the day he was born — as the first man of color at the royal palace for the king and queen of France.

If you go looking for this book — and you should — you’ll probably find it in the picture book section of your library or bookstore.

It might be ill-placed there, however.

Author Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrator James E. Ransome have dusted off an amazing story that even adults can appreciate, but I fear that the narrative is too sophisticated for toddlers, who gravitate toward picture books. Surely, “Before There Was Mozart” can be enjoyed by them — the illustrations are colorful and little kid-friendly — but children old enough to understand history, classical music and this tale’s significance will probably like it more.

Overall, this is a beautiful and important book, but just beware for whom you bring it home. Small children may squirm with impatience at this story, but for kids 8 or older, “Before There Was Mozart” is just perfect.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s children’s book reviews appear weekly in View.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
7 ways autocomplete can get smarter

Autocomplete is one of the best (or depending on how hastily you push ‘send’ – worst) things in the world. We rely on it so much that Google plans to let us autocomplete whole emails. Here are seven ways predictive input can improve. 1. Recognizing names from previous emails Jakub Kokoszka has a tough name to […]

Movie posters might soon be based on your clicks

You may have thought you left Blockbuster behind, but the basic way we browse movies hasn’t changed all that much. We peruse poster after poster, kind of like walking the aisles of a ‘90s-era video store. That one poster image, meant to appeal to as many people as possible, is often all we see before […]

What I’ll be covering at NAB 2018

The National Association of Broadcasters show kicks off this weekend in Las Vegas.  The show focuses on new and emerging technologies and trends in relation to the media and entertainment industries. As it’s not open to the public, I’ll be at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday to share some of […]

EXECUTIVE TRAVEL: Forget Strip flash; some prefer lake’s panache

If you get called to a board meeting at Lake Las Vegas, you might want to bring your swimsuit. That’s the term Westin at Lake Las Vegas marketing director Matt Boland uses for upright paddleboard races, one of many team-building exercises offered regularly at the resort.

After $4,700 in live poker career winnings, James Romero, 27, wins nearly $2 million

It was a 15-year celebration of The World Poker Tour at Bellagio for the Five Diamond World Poker Classic. The largest field size in WPT Five Diamond’s history was created when 791 entries were tallied, and it was James Romero, 27, of Portland, Oregon, who won his first WPT title.

Auto electronics at SEMA and AAPEX: A brave new world

The Specialty Equipment Market Association celebrated its 50th annual SEMA show at Las Vegas Convention Center this month by showcasing a car culture of “do-it-yourself” garage mechanics who share a passion for customizing vehicles.