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Strange Mr. Satie

Illustrated by Petra Mathers

Walking through the streets of Paris a hundred years ago, Erik Satie could not have looked more normal in his black bowler hat and tie. But Mr. Satie was dreaming of music no one had heard before – music like ancient chants and modern circus tunes rolled into one. A friend of poets, puppeteers, magicians, great painters like Picasso, and the Surrealists, Satie was at the center of a world where sense was nonsense, and the imagination ruled supreme.

Award-winning author M. T. Anderson recounts the story of the irreverent French composer in a biography that is witty, accessible, and endlessly surprising, while Petra Mathers’s magical illustrations capture all the vibrancy that was Erik Satie’s topsy-turvy world.

The Horn Book Fanfare

An JLG Selection

U.S. News and World Report “Top 10 Children’ Books”

“An irresistible invitation to discover a relatively little known, but profoundly influential 20th century artist.” – Kirkus (starred review)

“Like Satie’s repetitive, slowly advancing musical passages, Anderson’s words flow naturally and hypnotize the reader with oceanic rhythms. … Both author and illustrator seem to have channeled Satie’s spirit of risk-taking in their verbal and visual depictions of the composer’s artistry.” – The Horn Book Magazine (starred review)

“The details of Satie’s strange life will puzzle and intrigue youngsters. The interpretations of Satie’s absurdist musical pieces and guidelines are faithfully literal yet spiritedly surreal.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

“Anderson makes a music of his own with words.” – Washington Post

“A splendid alliance of topic, text, and illustration produces a hauntingly compelling biography.” – School Library Journal

“Deliciously offbeat.” – Booklist

“Strange indeed, but bewitching.” – Bookpage

On Strange Mr. Satie.

When I was a child, I loved Satie’s music – so I was delighted when I grew up to discover that he had been so childlike throughout his life. His love of children’s games and circus scenes and the wonderful peculiarity of being alive informed both his music and his day-to-day routine. He spent his evenings with pranksters, dancers, magicians, and clowns. He was not always a happy man, and he had his horrible tantrums. His music is playful, yet filled with subtle and solemn emotions. His pieces, like the world of a child, are tiny and delicate, but intensely felt. When I began to read about his life, I decided I had to write a book about him – as a way to sing back to him all the things he had sung to me.