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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Jubilee, written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Matt Tavares. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $19.00 ages 8 and up

"The Temple of Peace was now the biggest building in America. It was so big that people were afraid. What if it collapsed? they wondered. Some days, the talk sent Patrick straight to bed. Some nights, it kept him wide awake with worry."

Well, I've said before, and now I am saying it again. There are many, many people whose stories I do not know. Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore is just one more of them.

Thanks to Alicia Potter and Matt Tavares, and this new collaboration, I am more informed than I was yesterday. Let me tell you a bit about Mr. Gilmore. He was born in Ireland and music was his life. He played in his town's band and sang in the choir. It started in church and moved beyond church walls:

"It was wonderful! But Patrick longed to hear more notes and even bigger sounds. And he knew just how to accomplish that. He would become a bandleader."

A move to Boston, 'the country's music capital', was where his dream came true. With the onset of the Civil War and his enlistment in the army, he took his music to the troops. He became uniquely aware that music had great power to lift the spirits of his fellow soldiers. The war's end was all the inspiration he needed to do something quite wonderful: 

"Patrick would create the biggest, boldest, loudest concert the world had ever known. The music would celebrate the bravery of the soldiers! The unity of the land! The end of the war! The concert would be a peace jubilee."

Told that his idea for a five day celebration was too everything, Patrick moved forward, and even found sponsorship for the project. Planning in earnest included construction of a Temple of Peace; once it was done, Patrick could get on with the work of the jubilee itself:

"At three o'clock, one thousand musicians tuned their instruments.
Ten thousand singers took their places beneath two angels holding olive
branches - the sign of peace. The concert was about to start!'


As so often happens with books for young readers, we learn here about a relatively unknown event in a country's history. Thanks to Ms. Potter's able storytelling and Matt Tavares' watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil artwork, we are captivated audience members at this bold and raucous celebration of the sounds of music.  For those readers who attend concerts today, this is a lesson from the past that helps us to understand the joy we continue to feel when we share music today.

An author's note and bibliography add essential information.                                 

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