February 4 – Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George by Lesa Cline – Ransome. Illustrated by James E. Ransome.
Genre: Non-Fiction. Biography
Biography: Joseph Boulogne – knight (chevalier), fencer, composer, violinist, royal music instructor, Colonel in French Revolution, abolitionist. 1739 – 1799.
Historical Time Period: Mid-late 1700’s.
Geographical Relevance: 1. Guadeloupe Islands in the West Indies. 2. Paris, France. 3. Senegal.
Authenticity: The author, Lesa Cline-Ransome, and the illustrator, James E. Ransome, are wife and husband. Lesa was an avid writer while attending the Pratt Institute in New York, a professional marketing-writer, and developed a love of picture books during her graduate program in Education. Her husband first encouraged her to put her skills and knowledge into picture book form, and from there she would research the history of her subjects while her young children napped. James’ illustrations, also researched, make for a complete story. What is rare and wonderful to see, in major publishing houses, is the author and illustrator creating the book together. Ideas are in agreement – facilitating the book’s authenticity.
Before There was Mozart. By Lesa and James Ransome. 2011
Right: Author Lesa Cline-Ransome. Left: Illustrator James E. Ransome.
(photo courtesy of Chronogram Magazine)
I hadn’t heard of this book, or the author, before I saw it in the window of The Book Rack in Arlington, MA., a little over a month ago. This book is rare in quality. The story is unique and has many layers: A boy, who’s mother was a first-generation slave captured from Senegal, yet was never a slave himself, because his father, the plantation Master, honored his son as his son. The father also acknowledged the mother. Joseph continually experienced both oppression and privilege throughout his life, making for a very dynamic position and perspective in the world. I recommend this book for all ages, although grade K2 and grade 1 will need some mindful scaffolding beforehand.
Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.