Brundibar

by Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak

Two children need milk for their sick mother. “No money? No milk!” cries... read more

Two children need milk for their sick mother. “No money? No milk!” cries the cold-hearted milkman. Then they spy Brundibar. The odd little man has attracted a paying crowd with his hurdy-gurdy and his “awful awful” songs. Inspired, the children decide to sing for their supper—or rather, the money to buy their mother some milk. But Brundibar despises the competition. “Nasty little children, quiet. / Don’t be loud, don’t even try it / You’ll find out what troubles are / If you bother Brundibar!” The children are the heart and soul of this story—the hope for the future. They are the ones who have the courage to lead a rally against the bullying Brundibar. “Oh thundery blundery bothersome Brundibar! Shall you be pounced. And will you be trounced?” They triumph, but not without a haunting epilogue: “I’ll be back.” This picture book adaptation of a satirical Czech opera that was completed in 1938 makes numerous references to the Holocaust, highly appropriate given its history and intent. It was performed more than 50 times by children in the Nazi concentration camp Terezin. There is more than a passing resemblance between Brundibar and Hitler, both in image and action. Tony Kushner’s frantic, frenzied narrative is matched by Maurice Sendak’s unsettling artwork. Sendak’s illustrations are packed with symbols and images both obvious and subtle. The imagery is just part of what makes this such a highly discussible book for older children and teens. (Age 10 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2004

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