Sunday, March 21, 2010


As I took a trip through this beautifully illustrated children's version of Brundibar by Tony Kushner, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, I listened to an interview on PBS NOW between Sendak and Bill Moyer. Sendak went on to assist in the production of the opera in Chicago where he met one of the women who performed in the original production in the Nazi camp described in detail in the previously reviewed book, The Girls in Room 28.

The 2003 Brundibar is a retelling of the 1938 children's opera by Hans Krasa and Adolf Hoffmeister. It is the story of Pepicek and Aninku, two young children whose mother is sick and needs milk from town. The two run to town only to find they need money to get milk. They are poor and decide to sing for the money to buy the milk. But they are thwarted by Brundibar, a hurdy-gurdy man who sang with his monkey and got all the coins. Finally 300 children join the two and they defeat the bully Brundibar. The children sing the final song:

The wicked never win!
We have our victory yet!
Tyrants come along, but you just wait and see!
They topple one-two-three!
Our friends make us strong!
And thus we end our song

Unfortunately the original authors and Kushner and Sendak remind us of potential future dangers with this final note from Brundibar:

They believe they've won the fight,
They believe I'm gone - not quite!
Nothing ever works out neatly -
Bullies don't give up completely.
one departs, the next appears
and we shall meet again, my dears!
though I go, I won't go far...
I'll be back. Love,

Sadly this serves to remind us that we must remember what happened to these children and thousands of others who have been oppressed and murdered. We might defeat one bully, but there are others we should seek to defeat. Only by our persistence in the defeat of evil in our world can we honor these children who together defeated Brundibar.

TITLE: Brundibar
AUTHOR: Tony Kushner
ILLUSTRATOR: Maurice Sendak
TYPE: retelling of 1938 children's opera
RECOMMEND: I always love Sendak's illustrations, and this is a story of courage which tells a simple story of good over evil.

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