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The Children's Bookshelf: I Am Mozart Too - March 7, 2022

I Am Mozart, Too: The Lost Genius of Maria Anna Mozart written by Audrey Ades and illustrated by Adelina Lirius is a beautiful picture book biography about the life of Wolfgang Mozart’s older sister Maria Anna. She was born in 1751 and known as Nannerl. This story is a blend of both facts and creative non-fiction. Maria Anna did exist and was taught to play the harpsicord by her father. The story is told in her imagined voice.

When little Wolfie joined her at the keyboard, they both showed signs of musical genius. Nannerl began writing music. “In no time, music poured out of me like water over the riverbanks in springtime.” The illustration here shows the harpsicord releasing into the air a rush of lyrical images, scattered notes, colorful flowers and majestic white birds. The siblings practiced and practiced and eventually went on grand tours to Vienna, Munich and London.

When she was eighteen Nannerl’s father suddenly decided she would no longer join them. She would stay home and prepare to get married. She was even forbidden to write any more music. The social rules of the day did not allow women to do so. She was very unhappy but secretly continued to write music which she shared only with her brother.

I Am Mozart, Too: The Lost Genius of Maria Anna Mozart features gorgeous illustrations of Salzburg’s swirling domes and towers. The back material discusses the difference between fact and fiction and includes a useful timeline. This picture book speaks to readers 5-8 years of age (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2022).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for I Am Mozart, Too

Mozart’s older sister was named Maria Anna but was called Nannerl by her family. At the same time, she called her brother Wolfgang by his nickname Wolfie. Do you have a nickname? If so, do you like your nickname? How did it get started? If you could select your nickname, what would it be? Why?

The illustrations in this book are full of movement such as lines that swirl. Look at the illustration of Nannerl hearing the music before going to the keys. Find the words relaxed, sad, joyful and adventurous in this picture. Try to sing “Happy Birthday” in a relaxed way and then in a sad way, next in a joyful way and finally in an adventurous way. Have some musical fun!

For older readers: In the Back Materials the author describes how she wrote this picture book biography and what is meant by facts and by creative nonfiction. Think about the difference. Then write a paragraph about yourself that is based on all facts and then write a paragraph about yourself that is based on creative nonfiction.

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.