The Other Mozart: The Life of the Famous Chevalier de Saint George
Illustrated by Eric Velasquez
Non-Fiction Picture Book
Ages 8 to 12
Abrams, 2006, 0-8109-5720-5
Joseph was born on the island of Guadeloupe on Christmas day, 1745. He was the son of a slave and a wealthy French plantation owner and because his father loved him, Joseph was given opportunities that other slave children did not get. He learned to read and write, how to ride, to shoot, and the basics of fencing. Joseph also was given violin lessons and when he was eight he and his father and mother left the island and went to live in Paris.
To make Joseph’s transition into French society easier his father gave him a title. He was to be called Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint George. Joseph’s father also sent his son to a very prestigious boarding school so he could be educated as befitted a gentleman’s son. Joseph did well in school, particularly at fencing, and he proved to his class mates that he was just as good as they were even if he was a “half caste.”
As a young man the handsome, athletic, and kindly Joseph was the talk of the town. Not only was he a superb fencer but he was also an excellent violinist. Joseph played with great skill but he also composed pieces of music, playing them for many admiring and appreciative audiences. Joseph was even invited to play with Marie Antoinette, the queen of France.
By being determined, hard working, and resourceful, Joseph Bologne was able to get around the objections of those who did not want a man of color to succeed. He showed the people in his world that a slave’s son could be charming, educated, and talented, and he left behind a collection of music which music lovers will be able to enjoy for years to come.
Beautifully written and presented, the author of this book not only tells his readers about Joseph but he has also written background information about the history of the times and about some of the personalities who came into contact with Joseph during his lifetime. Full of lavishly reproduced paintings and extensive annotations, this is a unique and fascinating picture book.
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