Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, March 20, 2023

Pitch Perfect and Persistent! The Musical Debut of Amy Cheney Beach by Caitlin DeLems; Alison Jay

Pitch Perfect and Persistent! : The Musical Debut of Amy Cheney Beach.
Caitlin DeLems; Illustrated by Alison Jay
Calkins Creek. An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2023

Amy Cheney Beach was a musical prodigy. Born in West Henniker, New Hampshire on September 5, 1867, Amy showed her musical gifts at an early age. At age two, Amy was able to sing an anthem from start to finish. “No mistakes.” Despite her mother’s strong religious beliefs to deny her musical interest in playing the piano, Amy would grow up to be recognized as the first female composer in America. Many of her pieces were performed by the Boston Symphony. 

Yet, society frowned upon middle class women having a career. Did that stop Amy? No!  By age sixteen, Amy performed at Boston Music Hall. 

“She performed two major works - Moscheles’s Concerto in G Minor, Chopin’s Rondo in E-flat Major. ALL from memory.” 

Beach would go on to spend her life composing full-time and limited public recitals. A frequent visitor to the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, upon her death, Amy directed her royalties to be given to this now famous artist colony. 

The partnership of DeLems words and Jay’s signature illustrations, done with Alkyd paint (a quick-drying oil paint) with crackle varnish, brings this inspiring, musical biography to life.

Peppered throughout the narrative, in italics, are quotes from Amy Cheney Beach.

Included is an author’s note, timeline, musical glossary, and further reading. 

I have been a huge fan of Alison Jay’s art throughout the years and was tickled to see her work in this charming picture book biography. 

Click here to watch a film from Vermont Public on the life and music of  Amy Cheney Beach. Her music is moving and beautiful. 

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