h1 December 14th, 2021 by jules


Kyra Teis’s Klezmer! (Kar-Ben, November 2021) is a book bursting with joy. It features a Jewish child, the one you see above, who visits her grandparents in New York City (“Uptown, Downtown, and Lower East Side”), revels in the Jewish folk music known as klezmer, and celebrates its firm hold in both past and present: “Klezmer’s oldish, and newish, like jazz, but it’s Jewish. Yesteryear’s hits strive to jive with new riffs.”

Teis tells this tale with vibrant colors that pop off the page, dynamic compositions, energetic lines, and photocollage elements. As you can see below, she occasionally incorporates black-and-white images, giving these spreads a timeless feel, but she also works in images of sheet music, old klezmer posters, and more.

The music itself is the star of the show — clarinet, violin, bass, accordion. “TEEDLE-TEEDLE POM!” In one spread, a woman plays a fiddle, eyes closed and “playing a memory across its strings,” and emanating from the instrument are old photos of others playing, musical notes on sheet music, and an illustration of our protagonist with her grandfather, each holding instruments.

The text touches on the musical tradition’s history (“A recipe of sound. Flavors from the Old Country”) but primarily focuses on the sounds, rhythms, and feel of the music — as the child dances, leaps, and joins in the music-making. The book’s backmatter includes both a note about klezmer music and a QR code to scan for children who want to hear a modern performance of it. This ebullient story would serve as a wonderful introduction to the musical form that is klezmer and can be a springboard for further learning.

But it also speaks on a universal level to the ways in which music moves in the lives of children — with jubilation and meaning and history.

Here are some spreads. …


“Klezmer’s cool vibe is like taking a ride to a jam session in the city.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“Music bold and loud, rhythms wild and proud, frenzied, electric, always eclectic,
moving the crowd to a 2/2 metric.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“From shtetl to here, klezmer catches your ear. Traditions revive.
This sound is alive with soul, with joy, with life …”

(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


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KLEZMER! Text and illustrations copyright © 2021 by Kyra Teis. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Kar-Ben, Minneapolis.

One comment to “Klezmer!

  1. Wow! Fabulous illustrations!

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