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32pp, color

11in x 8in
Juvenile Nonfiction:  Biography/Music

7 to 12
May 2018







Age Range:



Download Curriculum Guide

CBCB 2019 Notable Social Studies Trade Book

Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Notable Book

2nd Place Winner, North Texas Book Festival

    "The story of songwriter and composer Irving Berlin’s humble beginnings and rise to Broadway and Grammy fame takes shape in an engaging biography that highlights the compassion, generosity, and patriotism that characterized his life. Berlin is depicted wrapped in an expressive, bright red scarf that swirls and dances along the streets of New York along with lines of musical notes. Children will enjoy learning about the inspiration behind such well-known hits as 'White Christmas' and 'God Bless America.'"
    —Foreward Review

    "Irving Berlin’s life sings in this beautifully illustrated, crisply told biography. Churnin tell us how and why he came to this country at age 5, escaping a pogrom in Tsarist Russia. She writes about the financial struggles when his father dies, his beginnings as a songwriter and how his songs captured the love of his adopted country and won the hearts of the American people. An author’s note and time line fill in biographical data. The exuberant art work captures the flavor and the rhythms of early 20th-century New York City."

    —Joanna Kraus, San Jose Mercury News

    “An immigrant, a talent—and America itself was changed. The true story of Irving Berlin, his songs, and American music. Beautifully, artfully done.”
    —Jane Yolen, award-winning author of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight

    “Nancy Churnin does a remarkable job of condensing Irving Berlin’s long and productive life into a narrative that will appeal to children and introduce them to one of America’s greatest songwriters.”
    —Philip Furia, author of Irving Berlin: A Life in Song

    “A delightful historical narrative with pop, pizzazz, and color, just like Irving Berlin himself. Children and adults alike will enjoy reading this fantastic journey to the birth of the song God Bless America.”
    —Mary Jo Guidice, Director of Libraries, Dallas

Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing

By Nancy Churnin

Illustrated by James Rey Sanchez

    Irving Berlin came to America as a refugee and began singing about his new home. From Broadway to “God Bless America,” his music still defines the American spirit!

    "Together, Churnin and Sanchez have created a timely biography that says a lot about the world in which we live and, as a bonus, just happens to be gorgeous to the eye and ear alike. More like this please!"

    —Betsy Bird, Fuse#8, School Library Journal

    "Jewish songwriting icon Irving Berlin immigrated to the United States as a child, but was American down to his core. Songs like "There's No Business Like Show Business, "Alexander's Ragtime Band," and the ubiquitous "White Christmas," were all Berlin compositions. But the song which meant the most to him and for which he refused to take any personal profit was "God Bless America." This richly-colored picture biography details Irving Berlin's younger years as he struggled to develop his musical talent. The illustrations make evocative use of shadow and light, creating a sense of movement across the pages. The reader is drawn into Berlin's world of New York streets and music-filled rooms. The text is dense enough to be informative, yet spare enough to keep the attention of young readers. This lovely book is highly recommended for ages 7 to 12."

    —Michael Malen, Jewish Book Council

    "Irving Berlin and his family arrived in America as countless immigrant families did: in New York Harbor, with the Statue of Liberty serving as a welcoming beacon (“ ‘God bless America,’ Irving whispered”). Through vivid storytelling, Churnin describes young Irving’s impressions of the unfamiliar city: “Walking home, the melodies in his head mixed with the crack of stickball games, the wail of the ragmen, and the creak of cartwheels on the cobblestones.” After his father’s death, Berlin earns money by writing and singing songs on the street, then at a restaurant; a fortuitous job at a song-writing company leads to his success. Yet Churnin recounts how fame doesn’t diminish Berlin’s gratitude for his life in America: he gave all of the proceeds for his hugely popular song “God Bless America” to the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Sanchez’s handsomely stylized graphics offer visual depth that hints at the many stories unfolding within Berlin’s New York City community; readers will recognize Berlin in the crowds by his long red scarf, which curls emotively throughout the pages. Ages 7–12."    —Publishers Weekly

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