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Kyra Teis By (author)
Kyra Teis Illustrated by
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Lerner Publishing Group

Limited ***

9.3 X 11.0 in
32 pg

JUVENILE NONFICTION / Religion / Judaism
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Introducing the newly popular jazzy fun klezmer music to a new generation of kids


"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, STARREDJournal

"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 MagazineMagazine

"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 CouncilWebsite

"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 WeeklyJournal

Author Bio

Kyra Teis is a children’s book author-illustrator, a graphic novelist, and an avid sewer of costumes. When she’s not making art, you can find her cheering wildly with her husband at their two daughters’ soccer games and musical theater productions.

Kyra Teis is a children’s book author-illustrator, a graphic novelist, and an avid sewer of costumes. When she’s not making art, you can find her cheering wildly with her husband at their two daughters’ soccer games and musical theater productions.