Mozart: The Boy Who Changed the World With His Music
written by Marcus Weeks
2013 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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Wolfgang Mozart is an intriguing historical figure. Young readers could make several connections with his life. First and probably most obvious is Mozart's talent and how it developed so early. Ask your students about the kids in kindergarten right now. They will probably talk about how small they are and how they are so cute. Now tell them to imagine one of those kindergartners composing pieces of music. That will blow their minds. You could also ask them if they know anybody in sixth grade. Ask if any of those sixth graders has written an opera. Mozart did. With this book, you can show how he was extraordinarily talented, but that his talent came in large part because he worked several hours a day on that talent. Another connection for older readers would be Mozart's relationship with his father. Leopold Mozart nurtured his son's career, but there came a time when Wolfgang wanted to be independent and make his own path. Ask your students if they ever felt like that. I think there is also an economic angle to Mozart's life that could be a useful lesson. Mozart experienced success during his career, but not as much as we might expect. He was constantly working because he was trying to keep up a high standard of living. It's possible that his constant work and looking for work might have contributed to his death at the age of 36. I would ask students about whether Mozart could have led a less stylish lifestyle and perhaps lived a longer life. Another variable to throw into that equation would be that he may not have had a choice, but needed to pursue this lavish life to keep his place in society and have people hear his music.
At first blush, you might think that a biography of Mozart might not have a place in a world of twerking and downloaded singles. But if you look closer, you will find several universal themes in this stimulating account of his life. I wouldn't hand it to a student cold, but instead frame the book in some of the connections that I mentioned above.