written and illustrated by Kyra Teis
Kar-Ben Publishing, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group
Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Karin Fisher-Golton
With rhythmic, lyrical writing and colorful, movement-filled collage illustrations, Kyra Teis has joyfully met the challenge of representing music in picture book form. In Klezmer! a clarinet-playing girl, whose curly red-orange locks flow to the beat, makes a trip into New York City to see “klezmer’s family and friends, clarinet and violin, from Uptown, Downtown, and Lower East Side.” Accordion and bass show up too—along with a group of musicians who are diverse in age, skin tone, and head coverings. The main text is light on explanation, but provides something more elusive—an experience and a tam (a flavor or taste).
For those wanting a bit more detail, there’s an “About Klezmer Music” section in the back, as well as a QR code that accesses a video of a klezmer performance. Most of the cars in the book look like they come from the 1970s, and the back section informs us that klezmer made a revival in that same decade, so the cars are both a touchstone and point of discussion. One of the many fun and informative illustrations shows a progression of how recorded music has been shared—from a gramophone, to a record player, to a boom box, to a smart speaker. Klezmer’s story is firmly in the present as well as the past.
Elements of Jewish life, Eastern European Jewish immigrant history, the Yiddish language, and klezmer music itself are all creatively and effectively presented, and make this musical picture book a contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.
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