Monday, April 11, 2016

The Extraordinary Music of Mr. Ives: The True Story of a Famous American Composer by Joanne Stanbridge (Picture Book Biographies from A to Z - Letter I)

The Extraordinary Music of Mr. Ives: 
The True Story of a Famous American Composer
by Joanne Stanbridge
2012. HMH Books for Young Readers.


Charles Ives (1874-1954) was an American modernist composer.


Despite the title's suggestion that this book is about Charles Ives's music, most of it is actually devoted to the sinking of the Lusitania, an event which inspired Ives to write a particular piece. The text is written in the present tense, with very minimal biographical information, and it does nothing at all to suggest to the reader how Ives's music might sound. Five wordless spreads are devoted to dramatic moments during the sinking of the Lusitania which, though interesting, seem odd to include in a biography of a man who was not actually on the ship.

About the Illustrations

The illustrations are fine from an artistic standpoint, but they add many characters to the story that have neither a real connection to Ives nor any influence upon his work. There are lots of exaggerated and overly emotional faces which don't really match the text, and again, the wordless spreads seem strange and gratuitous.

Author's Note

There is a very brief author's note, which is accompanied by suggestions for "Further Reading and Listening" and a list of "Selected Sources." There is nothing in this note which is not already addressed by the text.

Additional Comments

The "Unanswered Question"  is how Charles Ives ended up in this picture book about the Lusitania. Not recommended.


  1. This sounds like an interesting book. Never knew about the connection between Ives and the Lusitania, but I don't know much about his music. Like you point out, the book does seem like a peculiar presentation for children, but actually I might like something like this for my own entertainment.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

  2. Hello from A to Z, Katie. This sounds like an interesting book. I do think that personal experiences, current events, and even tragedies can sometimes inspire artistic work.

  3. I always appreciate finding candid reviews that do not merely gush about a book that may/may not be worth reading. Nice to find both sides of the story, communicated clearly.

    Visiting from the A-Z Challenge. I'm doing it with seven of my blogs this year.

    Here are a few of them:
    Heart of a Ready Writer
    Kicking MS to the Curb
    Working in Words
    Fad to the Bone – Dog Products Revue

    Happy A-Z!


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