"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, February 14, 2020


PLAYLIST: THE REBELS AND REVOLUTIONARIES OF SOUND by James Rhodes is one of the most fun books I've read in a long time.

James Rhodes, now a classical pianist, was an abused child. He credits classical music with saving his life. With his book, Playlist, he introduces us to the original rock stars: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel. He wants to help us "discover how their music changed history, inspired millions, and continues to enthrall throughout the world today." And he does it with a visually exquisite volume including the avant-garde designs by artist Martin O'Neill. After a short introduction by Rhodes, readers are directed to open up Spotify to cue up a playlist created specifically for readers of Playlist. Each classical musician superstar has two pieces of music on the playlist. Each piece reflects some aspect of the musicians genius.

This is what the reading/listening experience of Playlist was like for me---
Starting with Bach, I would read two pages of fun information about Bach and how his music has influenced current musicians. The double page looked like this:
The Facts of Life on Bach
Next I would turn the page and cue up the music for the piece that was highlighted on this double page. While I listened to the song, I would read facts about the song or about the artist as he was writing it. For example, 'The Marriage of Figaro' takes 3-4 hours to perform. In order for the audience to stay alert, Mozart would incorporate really lively tunes at points throughout the opera to make sure no one fell asleep.
The Marriage of Figaro Overture by Mozart
If I was still reading when the song ended, I would pause Spotify because I didn't want to start the next song until I was ready. Some of the songs were very short, just a few minutes, while others were quite long. Often Rhodes would give suggested times in the songs to pay special attention. It was a very interactive reading experience. My favorite song was also the longest: Bolero at 15 minutes. Rhodes gives the reader a list of all the instruments that are playing on each verse. I've loved this song for years and I had no idea that the melody of the song is passed from instrument to instrument seventeen times! I not only listened to it once by myself, but again with my husband. I had to share the listening experience with him.

What I liked about this book:
  • Well, I liked practically everything about it. I enjoyed the interactive component best.
  • Rhodes was brilliant for choosing just seven musicians to highlight, making the book short. It was not overwhelming at all to consume both the book and the music.
  • I think every music teacher should have their own copy of this book and get ready with the Spotify playlist. I can just picture them reading a short section to their students and then playing the song asking probing questions at the end to help cement learning.
  • Rhodes talked about why no women or minorities were chosen. It helped me accept their absence. Now I want him to create another volume of Playlist, this one including pieces by women or non-European men.
  • Interspersed throughout the book are more facts about classical music and how orchestras are organized by instruments. The back of the book has a helpful glossary of musical terms. 
What I didn't like about the book:
  •  The size of the book. It is unusually large so it was cumbersome to hold. It is nearly the size of old vinyl record covers, which are 12" by 12". (The book is a bit smaller at 11 1/2" by 11 1/2".) It is larger than most children's books. My experience with teenagers is they don't want to check out a book that will be viewed as a children's book by their peers. But this is a small quibble.
When my children were young, I made a point of playing classical music for them to listen to when we traveled in the car together. Both of my daughters still love classical music. My eldest is exposing her young son to it now. It is never to early to start exposing kids to the music of the very first rock stars!

I highly recommend this book and hope that every secondary librarian includes it in their library collection. It provides a wonderful reading/listening experience.



  1. I hope Ashley is having baby listen to music; I think it's so important! I love classical music too! I got that from my dad.

  2. I tried to find an email for you, but only have your old work one. I got in trouble last year as a second round judge for posting a CYBILS review before the winner was announced so wanted to give you a heads up.


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