The Other Mozart:
The Life of the Chevalier Saint-George
The first-ever picture book biography about this pioneering
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.
From Publishers Weekly
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.