Introducing the newly popular jazzy fun klezmer music to a new generation of kids
"More abstract rhapsody than narrative, Klezmer! follows a child visiting her grandparents’ apartment on New York City’s Lower East Side. There, she finds an eclectic group of musicians, and the visit soon becomes a klezmer jam session with the child joining in on clarinet. Along the way, we learn about the evolution of klezmer from its immigrant roots to its modern revival. The rhythmic text is loosely poetic, but it contains some delightful rhymes, including: 'Klezmer’s oldish, and newish, like jazz, but it’s Jewish.' Teis’s collage illustrations bring the music alive on the pages, blending vibrant paintings with historical photography. The result is a celebration of klezmer as inclusive and multicultural, connected with food and family and inspiring a new era of musicians." — Sarah Yahr Tucker, Hadassah Magazine—Magazine
"A pale-skinned child with wavy red tresses visits their grandparents’ Lower East Side apartment—a photograph in the dynamic, brightly colored collage art indicates the cross streets of Ludlow and Grand. The reason behind the visit is soon revealed: a klezmer jam session, featuring family and friends from around New York City. Upon the child’s arrival, a light tan bassist accompanies a pale fiddler with flowing white hair and a brown-skinned accordionist; soon, yarmulke-wearing Grandpa joins the narrator on the clarinet, and Bubbe provides snacks. Throughout, text describes klezmer playfully: 'oldish, and newish,/ like jazz, but it’s Jewish.' Teis’s metaphors may not be clarifying for readers unfamiliar with klezmer, but anyone who’s felt the power of a group jam will appreciate this rhythmic, community-centered tale. Back matter includes an author’s note and a QR code, which links to a video of contemporary klezmer." — Publishers Weekly—Journal
"Many young readers may be unfamiliar with traditional Jewish klezmer music played at communal celebrations and concerts, but they will still enjoy this inventive picture book. Kyra Teis’s jazzy, free-verse text approximates the rhythm of the music itself, while her colorful and kinetic pictures make the world of klezmer accessible and exciting. Both an informational book and a work of poetry, Klezmer! immerses both children and adults in a unique cultural experience.
Music cannot be contained within the pages of a book, but Teis’s rhymes and images give readers a vivid sense of her subject. Following a young girl on her journey through a New York City neighborhood, Teis brings all the essential elements of klezmer into view. There are clarinets and violins, the Lower East Side, loving grandparents, as well as multicultural and multigenerational musicians. A fiddle is wistful, 'playing a memory/across its strings,' but the ensemble can also 'Turn up the heat!' as a 'Clarinet squawks and bleats.' Instead of explaining the different instruments and historical origins of klezmer music, the author and illustrator presents them as a visual and aural performance. She compares the creation of this musical form to a cook following a recipe, producing 'a drain-in-the-bowl,/touch the soul/groove.'
Turning the pages of the book, readers feel pulled into the action of a musical event. Teis combines colorful scenes of people interacting with collage, including photos. The resulting pictures seem almost three-dimensional, as in a wedding scene where people you might find in your family albums support a drawing of a musical staff topped by the bride and groom. In another informative picture, a small boat carrying photographed immigrants holding drawings of instruments approaches the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. A block of text against the blue background of the ocean contains factual and poetic words: 'From shtetl to here,/klezmer catches your ear.' Authentic historical posters of klezmer artists also appear in contemporary scenes, emphasizing the timelessness of this art form.
Introducing children to joyful parts of the Jewish past is always enriching. When the past continues into the present, this exchange is even better. From accordion to bass, from uptown to downtown, the sounds and stories of klezmer come alive in this book.
This highly recommended picture book includes an afterword, 'About Klezmer Music,' and a QR code for a klezmer performance." — Emily Schneider, Jewish Book Council—Website
"A young Jewish child finds connections to past and present in the sounds of klezmer during a visit to grandparents on the Lower East Side of New York City.
At Bubbe and Zayde’s, there are family and friends with whom to share good food, memories of long ago, and a bit of history. Text and illustrations are completely interwoven as the exuberant child leads readers through the visit while focusing on the music itself. The tale is told in joyful bursts of expressive verse set in very large, bold print amid collages of old photos, lines of music notation, and bright, exuberant illustrations filled with movement and whimsy. The grandparents are seen both as hosts and participants in the music. There are also other, racially diverse musicians playing the clarinet, accordion, and violin—the instruments that make up a traditional klezmer band—with a bass added in, to bring it into the 1970s, when klezmer had a rebirth. Much of the language reflects the musical jargon of that era, as in 'rock out,' and 'strive to jive with new riffs.' The protagonist describes the musical sounds while listening, dancing, and twining around the instruments and their players, taking some turns on the clarinet. The music leaps across the pages, evoking old and new in a kind of jazz that is married to its Eastern European Jewish roots. 'L’Chaim! To life!' Klezmer represents it all. A QR code on the back jacket leads readers to a delightful klezmer video.
A delightful, deliriously happy introduction to an unusual and too-little-known musical form." — Kirkus Reviews, STARRED—Journal