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Handel, Who Knew What He Liked

Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

George Frideric Handel was not your everyday eighteenth-century composer. And in a manner befitting its subject, this witty, rigorously researched, and accessible biography captures Handel’s essential spirit — from a child who smuggled a clavichord into the attic to make music against his father’s orders to a young man who imported forty-five pounds of mountain snow to chill wine for a gala. LOS ANGELES TIMES Book Prize winner M. T. Anderson depicts not only Handel’s triumphs but also his struggles, chronicling the illness, ill fortune, and despair that led to his greatest achievement, the Messiah. With impeccable detail and a wink at the reader, Kevin Hawkes illustrates this singular story of Handel and the music through which he lives on.

Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award for Non-fiction

ALA Notable Children’s Book Award Winner

The Horn Book Fanfare

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People

“Not so long ago, children’s biographies of classical composers were as lively as marble busts and about as likely to be taken down from the shelf. Anderson and Hawkes’ large-format, biographical picture book introduces George Frideric Handel and infuses the composer’s story with warmth and color, humor and humanity…. Anderson never forgets his audience in his enthusiasm for his subject.” – Booklist, starred review

“… Worthy of a standing ovation.” – The Horn Book, starred review

“In this wittily irreverent picture-book biography, the legendary baroque composer is vividly brought to life… These gifted collaborators deserve a Hallelujah Chorus of their own for this volume, as well as a request for a speedy encore.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Both illustration and text are characterized by a saucy style, impeccable pacing, and a richness of content, and the two harmonize splendidly.” – School Library Journal, starred review

“This will be an obvious and welcome addition to music units and biography shelves.” – The Bulletin of Center for Children’s Books

“Readers don’t need to know anything about the composer to enjoy this lively biography, but it is hard to imagine anyone reading these pages who wouldn’t want to run right out to hear the “Water Music” or a snatch of the “Messiah”. – Kirkus Reviews


On Handel, Who Knew What He Liked

I always loved Handel’s music. When I was a teenager, I was forced to be in the school choir and the church choir. After a few years of grumbling, I came to love it. As the years passed and my voice cracked, broke, and sank, I sang every voice part of Handel’s Messiah.

When I was a kid, I loved Handel’s music because it seemed to promise that humans would be noble creatures, full of reason and gentility. Of course, that was before I went to high school.

So why write a children’s book about a master of the Baroque fugue? First, his life is full of great scenes: He released live birds in the theater as a special effect. He fought a duel with his best friend over which one of them would direct an opera. His singers got onto fist-fights onstage. So there were great anecdotal scenes. But also, I felt that kids would appreciate the story of someone trying their best at what they really believed in – and still failing – and having to keep trying until things worked out.