The Greatest Song of All: How Isaac Stern United the World to Save Carnegie Hall

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jul. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063045279.
Gr 1-4–Music, history, and social justice combine in the unique story of famed violinist Isaac Stern’s struggle to save Carnegie Hall from destruction. The premier performance in 1891 sets the scene for the historical significance of this landmark, a place where people from all backgrounds came to perform. Hoyt presents Stern at an early age, who performed so often at Carnegie Hall that it felt like his second home. When city planner Robert Moses planned to knock the hall down along with 18 city blocks of buildings occupied by largely poor Black families in 1960, Stern began a campaign to save the building. From protests to petitions, fundraising to legislation, Stern worked with employees, musicians, politicians, and philanthropists to create a long-term solution: an educational institution housed in the hall, which would then pay for itself after the city’s purchase of the building. Back matter and an author’s note offer ample extensive resources and background, as well as a sweet connection between the author and subject: her parents met in New York as professional musicians. Hickey’s illustrations drop readers right into New York City and Carnegie Hall. The shading, details, and colors create a richness that echoes the splendor and decadence of the performance space. Similarly, Hoyt’s ample adjectives and similes offer just the right amount of flourish and flamboyance without being overly flowery.
VERDICT This volume offers a precious glimpse into an important moment in history. It is a true love letter to Carnegie Hall, and should have a place on all shelves.

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