Eric Velasquez


The Other Mozart: The Life of the Chevalier Saint-George

The first-ever picture book biography about this pioneering African-American musician!
Joseph Bologne was one of the most famous men in eighteenth-century France. The son of a slave and a French nobleman in Guadaloupe, the ambitious Joseph moved to Paris, where he was christened the Chevalier de Saint-George. During his extraordinary life, he conquered every limitation by becoming a champion swordsman, violin virtuoso, composer, and military commander in the French Revolution. From the plantations of the West Indies to the palace at Versailles, The Other Mozart details the true story of a remarkable man. Illustrated by original paintings and archival materials, the Chevalier de Saint-George's inspiring and affirming story lives on.

The Other Mozart

The Other Mozart

The Other Mozart

From Publishers Weekly

Brewster (Anastasia's Album) immerses readers in 18th-century France in this picture-book biography of little-known musician Joseph Bologne Saint-George (1745–1799). Famous for more than just his music, the man's drive and talents spurred him to greatness in other areas, such as fencing and military leadership. Born to an enslaved West Indian mother and a French aristocrat, Bologne spent his early childhood in Guadalupe and at age eight moved to Paris where his father, Georges de Bologne-Saint-George, granted him and his mother freedom. His father gave Joseph the title "the Chevalier de Saint-George," and later, "People even called Joseph 'le Mozart noir'—the black Mozart," for his musical genius. Valesquez's (The Sound That Jazz Makes) elegant paintings, framed in regal hues, depict the chevalier (who was a favorite musician of Marie Antoinette) at his many pursuits. One portrait of a confident, strong Joseph in a fencing stance, backed by an ominous gray sky, appears to be symbolic of the book's recurring theme of his ambition set against a backdrop of prejudice. Art reproductions and photos show places, people and artifacts from this era, and sidebars convey the history of some of these (e.g., a timeline of Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution). These diversions can feel like interruptions to Joseph's story, but the end result is a fascinating story that plucks a remarkable man from obscurity. Ages 5-10.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4–8—This swashbuckling biography of a multitalented musician in Revolutionary France will leave readers wondering why they'd never heard of the man. Born into slavery in Haiti, Saint-George distinguished himself in France as a composer, violinist, swordsman, colonel, prisoner, diplomat—and even an accomplished ice skater. Brewster relies heavily on the only English-language biography of Saint-George to reconstruct his unusual life, but also recognizes more recent scholarship in his author's note and includes a detailed list of recommended resources in a variety of formats. Period reproductions and drawings appear throughout, but at the heart of the book is Velasquez's original artwork. His moody paintings capture Saint-George raising his baton to cue the orchestra or drawing back his sword to parry a blow. The book features mini-biographies of other musicians and detailed time lines of the French Revolution and the life of Marie Antoinette, making it the perfect complement to units on the French and American Revolutions. The engaging narrative supplies delicious detail about life in Europe in the late 1700s, and the elegant design makes it the kind of picture book that even high school students will pick up.
—Emily R. Brown, Providence Public Library, RI Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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