August 30, 2011
“Life without music is unthinkable.” With that Leonard Bernstein quotation, Susan Goldman Rubin opens her remarkable biography of the legendary composer and conductor. For young readers wrestling with self-identity, Bernstein’s life provides a near inspirational message: whatever your life’s passion, pursue it to the best of your ability. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you are naturally gifted and driven to succeed.) As a child of Jewish immigrants, whose business oriented father didn’t always understand his son’s obsession with music, Bernstein nonetheless was the recipient of an outstanding education, first at Boston Latin School and then at Harvard. Growing up in a religious Conservative home and temple left an indelible mark on the young musician which later influenced compositions with biblical and Jewish themes. This is a well-researched and elegantly written biography with an indepth focus on Bernstein’s childhood through family anecdotes and memories which enrich the book. The photographs, particularly of his childhood and family, are especially poignant and well-selected. Also included are reproductions of musical scores, announcements and notes. Ms. Rubin’s fluid writing makes Lenny and his achievements come alive, especially with the inclusion of supportive quotes sprinkled throughout the text. In addition to a timeline, discography, bibliography and quotation sources, the book contains helpful short biographies of individuals mentioned in the book who would be unfamiliar to young readers. For ages 9 – 12.