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Mo Willems, a number one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, composes a powerful symphony of chance, discovery, persistence, and magic in this moving tale of a young girl's journey to center stage. Illustrator Amber Ren brings Willems' music to life, conducting a stunning picture-book debut.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published March 5, 2019

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About the author

Mo Willems

253 books3,771 followers
#1 New York Times Bestselling author and illustrator Mo Willems is best known for his Caldecott Honor winning picture books Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Knuffle Bunny: a cautionary tale.

In addition to such picture books as Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct, and Time to Pee, Mo has created the Elephant and Piggie books, a series of early readers, and published You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When it Monsoons, an annotated cartoon journal sketched during a year-long voyage around the world in 1990-91.

The New York Times Book Review called Mo “the biggest new talent to emerge thus far in the 00's."

Mo’s work books have been translated into a myriad of languages, spawned animated shorts and theatrical musical productions, and his illustrations, wire sculpture, and carved ceramics have been exhibited in galleries and museums across the nation.

Mo began his career as a writer and animator for television, garnering 6 Emmy awards for his writing on Sesame Street, creating Nickelodeon's The Off-Beats, Cartoon Network’s Sheep in the Big City and head-writing Codename: Kids Next Door.

He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his family.

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5 stars
1,966 (51%)
4 stars
1,241 (32%)
3 stars
469 (12%)
2 stars
97 (2%)
1 star
45 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 622 reviews
Profile Image for Calista.
3,869 reviews31.2k followers
September 3, 2019
I knew Mo Willems wrote good books, but they can also be beautiful. I love this book so much. It is dear to me. I think any person who has heard a piece of music and loved it so much that it changed your life in that moment and your life was set on a creative path will understand this story. It is fantastic. I hope it gets the Caldecott. It has my vote.

We start with how Brahms was influenced by Beethoven to write beautiful music. Musicians practiced long and with care to be able to play the piece. Lots of people set the stage and got the Hall ready for a performance so that the music could happen. And an uncle gets a cold so that a favorite aunt takes this girl to hear Brahms Symphony #8. It transforms this girl and we see her floating on air with the music swirling within her. She begins to practice and is inspired to write music herself. We end with her music being performed on stage.

I tell you, anyone that is in the music world can more than likely relate to this story. The art tells the story and I love how the music line is seen and how it entangles in a person. A beautiful story.

I loved it so much that I convinced my niece to read it with us. I read it to the whole family actually. The niece loved this book. She thought it was well done but she missed really having a main character. She was glad to see the girl made it to be famous. The niece is a singer and she understands music. She gave this 4 stars. Believe it or not, the nephew also loves music. He’s not so much about singing, but he loves to have it playing in the background. He has found the title track to the Lego Batman movie which is a headbanging piece and he loves it. Of course he does. He thought this was a good book and gave this 3 stars. The parents thought it was an awesome book too.

If you are moved by music, I think you should check this out.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
November 20, 2019
My family reads all the Goodreads-award-nominated picture books every year. This is book #8 (of more than 20) of 2019, and we, except for the newly curmudgeon Hank, thought it was one of the better ones, maybe in the top three. Mo Willems has written more than 50 picture books, and his illustrator Amber Ren has done one, this one. It's about creativity, the arts, focused on how a girl decides to become a musician. Ren links her own decision to becoming an artist to the moment she saw a pithing by John Singer Sergeant.

Lyra (12): 4. I like the simplicity of everything. The drawings are sweet, and those colorful musical notes I totally loved. You could feel the emotions these musicians felt. Everything connects for the best, and music you see as such wondrous art.

Hank (13): 1. Because this happened, for half the story (too repetitious), then a girl grows up to be a musician and we're supposed to be so moved.

Harry (14): 4. I like how everyone helped each other and influenced each other without knowing it.

Tara: 4.5. This was simple and sweet.

Dave: 3.5. Deliberately vague title. I suppose it's about the serendipity of influence on how people choose art for their lives as Willems and Ren do. There's a lot of books about art and creativity by artists, and this is one. She hears the music of Lizst and it changes her life. It's not particularly original but well done.
Profile Image for Deborah.
736 reviews48 followers
November 15, 2019
4.5 stars. Because a young girl sat in her sick uncle's seat, she heard the beautiful music performed by an orchestra leading to an adoration for music and the creation of a musical life. Gave me chills.
Profile Image for orangerful.
948 reviews47 followers
March 13, 2019
Bonus star for mentioning the orchestra's librarian.

Gorgeous story about all the pieces that happen behind the scenes for beautiful music to happen now and in the future.
Profile Image for Cindy Dobrez.
708 reviews28 followers
March 11, 2019
Because a 4th grader was ahead in her work and because an elementary school librarian gave her jobs and because the girl had a hard time choosing between many subjects she loved, she became a librarian so she could dabble in them all. And over time, because she worked very hard, and she was lucky, she was chosen to serve on award committees and to review and blog for Booklist magazine. Because of that, books like Because (Hyperion, 2019) by Mo Willems and Amber Ren arrive on her doorstep waiting for her to read and promote. Mo writes the “score” here, telling the story of how chance, fate, coincidence, passion, hard work, and serendipity and, yes, perhaps a touch of mystery, results in a young girl finding her passion in a career as a musician and conductor. Amber Pen provides the “performance,” the illustrations, to this moving story of how small moments can result in life-changing opportunities. A colorful trail of musical notes winds through the pages that start and end with musical scores.

Check out this Bookends Blog post at our new home for a link to the compositions, and a review by Lynn of a novel for middle grade that also examines fate and chance.
223 reviews3 followers
March 1, 2019
Because I read this book I cried my eyes out
Beautiful book about inspiration. I loved that Willems included the practice (and luck) that goes along with accomplishment as well as the participation of many people working together to create an experience. Amber Ren's illustrations of the thread of music flowing through and then exploding into an impressive blast of sound are particularly effective. What a lovely book.
Profile Image for Vicki.
4,537 reviews16 followers
March 7, 2019
I read this book BECAUSE Mo Willems wrote it. I like this book very much BECAUSE it is inspiring to see how events and people can influence anyone & everything.

I like the endpapers BECAUSE they are sheet music and you don’t usually see that in a picture book.

There is a hidden book cover under the book jacket and I love when that happens BECAUSE it’s fun and every picture book should have them.

I think everyone should read this BECAUSE it’s great!
Profile Image for Laura Harrison.
999 reviews111 followers
April 3, 2019
Love this one. Really interesting subject matter and beautifully rendered. Possible Caldecott 2020 contender.
Profile Image for melhara.
1,272 reviews57 followers
December 8, 2019
This book is about all the little factors that played a part in how a little girl grew up to become a composer. She ends up composing her first symphony, The Cold. Hilary Purrington (an actual composer), also composed a piece titled The Cold to accompany the picture book, which you can listen to on her website here.

Little known fact about myself - I love listening to instrumental music such as classical music, orchestras and symphonies, film scores, and instrumental jazz. So reading a picture book about classical music (with the aim of introducing kids to this genre of music) makes me really happy!

Overall, I thought this was a creatively-written picture book with adorable illustrations.
Profile Image for Jana.
2,588 reviews37 followers
March 14, 2019
This awesome picture book uses the story of a life-changing opportunity for a young girl to attend a classical music performance to show that nothing in this world happens in isolation, and that chains of events lead to all sorts of circumstances and opportunities for us all. The books starts with a composer creating music hundreds of years ago, to the formation of the orchestra group, to the music being learned and practices and so on. When an uncle gets a cold, and a little girl gets to attend the orchestra in his place, young readers get to see all that results. This would be a clever way to talk about cause and effect in reading and writing and inspire other causal chain stories.
Profile Image for Gaby.
Author 4 books78 followers
April 6, 2019
Because Mo Willems is my favorite kid-lit author, I ordered this book. Because I ordered it, I read it. Because I loved it, I read it to my class. Because my class and I read it, we had the most wonderful discussion— we talked about how small things lead to big things, and how everyone plays a part in everyone’s story. This book is wonderfully written and illustrated, life-changing and beautiful.
Profile Image for Kent District Library.
972 reviews44 followers
April 17, 2019
“This is a picture book that brought back lot of memories of my dad. Because he loved classic music, my life was filled with beautiful sound. I didn’t get to be a real musician like the girl in this book, but I could tell what music is on the inside cover of the book by just reading the score.” – Yuko at KDL’s Service Center
Profile Image for Julie Seifert.
Author 1 book40 followers
March 13, 2019
This was AMAZING. A great book about inspiration, music, how little things can make a difference, and the roles we all play in other's lives.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,277 reviews176 followers
October 17, 2019
A way more serious and sincere look at the power of music and art to inspire than I was expecting from Pigeon and Elephant & Piggie creator Mo Willems. Well done!
Profile Image for Alice Maton.
79 reviews3 followers
November 21, 2019
Because of everything that has come before, it can be possible to inspire someone else.
This is a story of a little girl who goes to the see an orchestra. It is only because the conductor was inspired by another that he pursued music. Because of the other musicians, workers, train drivers, it was possible for the orchestra to happen. And that is when the girl heard the music that carried her away and encouraged her to pursue music too.
There is a lovely circular narrative to this as the story could continue this way forever. It highlights that it can take one experience to find your passion but it is because of something and what has made it possible.
The illustrations of the music travelling through the air in wavy, swirling motions and beautiful colours is a lovely way to portray music. It shows how it can surround someone and has a sense of warmth and security. This books highlights the importance of giving children the experience to be creative in hope they are inspired and find their passion.
Profile Image for Kevin Keating.
656 reviews9 followers
December 29, 2022
I liked it better than I thought I would. Never learned how to play music or read notes, I thought it was going to be boring, even for 40 pages. It's not great literature and no profound reading here, but the theme is good and beneficial to young readers and the artwork I thought was pretty good, so yeah I'll give it a 4.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
510 reviews
December 4, 2019
Absolutely beautiful children’s book, words and illustrations! Wonderful example of the power of music, art, and imagination in a child’s life and how it affects us still more profoundly as adults. Being a musician myself, this book really pulled at my heartstrings. It is no surprise that this is nominated for best picture book of the year.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,399 reviews463 followers
April 13, 2019
I kind of like the concept, the art was good, and having the creators as extras was a nice touch. But the book didn't flow very smoothly: both the progression and some of the specifics felt awkward. It was interesting to read about a modern symphony composer, but - it just didn't work for me. And the "Performed by" credit was weird since it suggested that an audio performance was included with the book, which would make sense in a book about a symphony, right?
Maybe I just have too many assumptions about what kind of book Mo Willems writes, but despite the aspects I really liked, it was a disappointment. Not bad, just not as good as it felt like it should have been.

Library copy
Profile Image for Becky.
780 reviews3 followers
March 1, 2019
Because I read this book... I am now trying not to cry at the circ desk.

Really beautiful. Both in story and illustrations (or score and performance, as the book will tell you). A great choice for a kid who needs a story of passion and hard work paying off. With a little bit of luck and love along the way. Welcome back, Mo.
Profile Image for Dianna.
1,869 reviews33 followers
March 20, 2019
What a pleasant surprise to pick up Mo Willems' latest and discover a new orchestra book. I love orchestra books!

This does not feel like Willems' other books—it's not funny, for one—but it's worth checking out for sure. A lot of music, a lot of cause and effect, and a little bit of girl power.
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,220 reviews210 followers
April 17, 2019
Not only is this book beautifully rendered in words and pictures, but it uses art to show cause and effect. A perfect symmetry between art and science (STEAM at its finest)... not to mention showing what hard work can accomplish. Simply stunning! – Jennifer K.
Profile Image for Beth.
2,913 reviews196 followers
April 8, 2019
Music can change you. Your life can change the course of others’ lives for the better. This book is a palpable experience of the ways in which music can change you. I may have cried whilst reading.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 622 reviews

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