Cover image for Sebastian : a book about Bach
Sebastian : a book about Bach
Winter, Jeanette.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt Brace, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 28 cm
Describes how Johann Sebastian Bach survived the sorrows of his childhood and composed the music the world has come to love.
Reading Level:
AD 780 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.3 0.5 34603.

Reading Counts RC K-2 3.9 2 Quiz: 22904 Guided reading level: N.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3930.B2 W63 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
ML3930.B2 W63 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
ML3930.B2 W63 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Childrens Area-Biography
ML3930.B2 W63 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A long time ago, a boy named Sebastian was born into a family of musicians. He heard music everywhere, especially in his own head, and he wrote down what he heard. Sebastian married, raised a family, and wrote more than a thousand pieces of music. He also created a little book of music especially for his wife, Anna Magdalena, so that in the evenings the whole family could make music together. Hundreds of years after his death, Bach's music is heard and played all over the world. Many people think it is some of the most glorious music ever written. And today young students--like Bach's own children--can learn to play the music from Anna Magdalena's notebook.

Author Notes

Jeanette Winter has written and/or illustrated over a dozen children's books, including "Calavera Abecedario" and "The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq," as well as biographies of Diego Rivera, Johann Sebastian Bach and Georgia O'Keeffe among others.

Winter is celebrated for her distinctive painting style, picture design, and usage of brilliant colors. She has received the American Illustrators Guild Award twice.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2^-4, younger for reading aloud. Like Winter's biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, My Name is Georgia (a Booklist Editors' Choice 1998), this simple picture-book biography of the master composer expresses the harmony of the artist's work as well as the intensity of his life. Winter begins in folktale style ("In the days of castles and kings"), with the musical gift being passed down through generations ("All the Bachs played music"); and the storytelling fits perfectly with her signature folk-art paintings. We see Sebastian's sadness when he is orphaned at age nine, and then his youthful joy in playing the organ; but the main focus is on his work as a composer, the music he hears in his head that comes to life all around him. Even in the happy family turmoil with his 20 children, even in the jail cell where he spends a month, even on his deathbed, Bach is still composing. Winter's spare poetic text is beautiful ("He heard one melody for the violin, one for the trumpet, one for the flute, and one for the oboe. Each instrument had its own voice. And when all the voices sounded at the same time, it was like good friends talking together"). In brilliant colors, with lots of blue and purple, the framed acrylic quiltlike paintings have depth and clear detail, showing the composer at work and individual instruments working together to make the waves of music that weave through everyday life and through space and time. A fine biography to use with children who play an instrument and those who love to listen. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Winter sets a mythic backdrop for her picture book biography as she shows the lineage of the esteemed composer: "In the days of castles and kings,/ the birds listened/ when Vitus Bach played his cittern." While her profile of Georgia O'Keeffe in My Name Is Georgia was grounded in the details of the landscapes that so moved the artist, here Winter's distinctive narration eschews the anecdotal and informal, and therefore distances readers from the subject: "The music filled the church like thunder./ Angels listened." Winter's signature acrylic paintings, evocative of folk art, also take on an other-worldly aspect: dramatic black backgrounds and silhouettes set off the many patternsÄof clouds, stars, trees, rooftops, cobblestones. Winter casts the angelic audience smiling upon Bach from the firmament in a far more favorable light than the "unruly boys" Bach tutors and the "fidgety choirboys" at the church where Bach plays the organ. Readers who prefer an idealized portrait will be well served by this unusual, if somewhat elusive, book. Ages 5-8. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 3-As she did so effectively in My Name Is Georgia (Harcourt, 1998), Diego (Knopf, 1994), and Josefina (Harcourt, 1996), Winter combines a spare text and colorful illustrations to capture her subject's personality. In a folkloric tone, she presents the outlines of the composer's youth, family, marriage, and work. The author clearly relates how music dominated Bach's life as compositions filled his head and he worked feverishly to get them down on paper. She also succeeds at conveying the complexity of composition: "He heard one melody for the violin, one for the trumpet, one for the flute, and one for the oboe." Winter's palette is dominated by the blue, teal, and violet that are used to border each page, although within the illustrations, they take on a deeper, more vibrant shade. Waving ribbons of color represent the music throughout the illustrations. Although few details of the composer's life are included, readers will sense his determination to succeed. Most of all, they will understand the importance of his music to the world.-Jane Marino, Scarsdale Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.