Cover image for Becoming Bach
Becoming Bach
First edition.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 cm
Highlights the life and achievements of the eighteenth-century German composer and musician, and examines the development of his most important compositions.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 921 BACH 1 1
Book J 921 BACH 0 1
Book J 921 BACH 1 2
Book E 921 BACH 0 1

On Order



For Johann Sebastian there was always music. His family had been musicians, or bachs as they were called in Germany, for 200 years. He always wanted to be a bach. As he grew, he saw patterns in everything. Patterns he would turn into melodies and song, eventually growing into one of the most important and celebrated musical composers of all time. This is the story of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Author Notes

Tom Leonard has worked as a freelance illustrator for over twenty years. In the past seven years he has focused his work on children's books, usually with a view toward nature. He now lives in Philadelphia and teaches illustration at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In an imagined, first-person narrative, Johann Sebastian Bach recounts how music permeated his life. "I needed to make patterns, so I wrote music," Bach explains; Leonard (Who Will Plant a Tree?) shows the young man staring into the distance as pale ribbons of musical notation swirl around him. Along with staffs and notes, colorful baroque ornamentation fills the pages, visually cementing the connection between the music Bach created and the world that inspired and informed it. While the narration is spare, a closing endnote dives into greater detail about Bach's upbringing, family life, and musical output. It's a visually striking portrait of a musician's compulsion to create, and of how music can transcend distance and time. Ages 4-10. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Music abounds in this picture-book biography of Johann Sebastian Bach. The short first-person text follows Bach's life from his birth to his first position as an organist. The diligent young composer finds musical inspiration everywhere, especially in patterns, and readers will learn how even his last name, Bach, means musician. The final two-page spread celebrates his ongoing musical legacy. Detailed acrylic paintings have a classical feel and are woven throughout with music themes. Musical notes float, drip, and surround the Germany of Bach's time. In several illustrations, the simple text swirls with the ever-present musical notes. Back matter includes an author's note, sources, suggested listening, and a biography of Bach, providing details to events only briefly touched upon in this introductory text. Unfortunately, the list of recommended websites includes several questionably accurate websites and cumbersome URLs. However, the rest of the package is strong enough to overcome this minor weakness. This beautifully illustrated picture-book biography inspires further exploration into the life of this superlative composer.--Seto Forrester, Amy Copyright 2016 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-3-In this elegantly composed biography, Johann Sebastian shares his dream of one day following in his family's footsteps and becoming a "bach," that is to say, a musician. For the young dreamer, "there was always music." Fascinated by different musical instruments, from the harpsichord and violin to the flute and organ, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) learns to play them all. After the death of his parents, he goes to live with his older brother, who gives him music lessons, setting the boy on his journey to greatness. Bach is shown seeing colorful patterns in the music he eagerly copies for his brother. Ultimately, he becomes a church organist, and he creates a "sound that would be heard forever." Adorned with musical notes and swirls of color, the acrylic paintings inventively portray Bach's world and his love of music, providing a rich and striking canvas for the first-person narrative. In one poignant illustration, the composer sits on the riverbank watching gentle raindrops fall. He envisions arrangements of the seven notes on the musical staff in the ripples on the water's surface. On certain pages, unfortunately, the lines of text incorporated into the artwork are lost in the magnificence of the picture. Back matter includes a suggested listening list to enhance young readers' experience of Bach's music. VERDICT A splendid addition to elementary collections. Music lovers will identify with the young composer as they witness his pursuit of his dream.-Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Johann Sebastian Bach's early years come to life in a delightful salute to the 17th-century German composer.Johann, raised in a large family of musicians, is intrigued by the patterns he sees in musical notation and imagines the kinds of sounds he could invent with "just seven notes." While this simplification of the concept of composition is likely for the benefit of budding musicians (Bach used the Western 12-tone scale), it also lends an immediacy to the light, first-person text. Leonard uses expansive double-page spreads throughout to illustrate Johann's love of music. On one such, the notes of a score fill with vibrant color and float away beyond the young copyist's hand. The artwork in acrylic paint on illustration board leaves plenty of room for young readers to interpret metaphorical images. An evocative, vertical double-page spread is a visual play on the word "scale," as notes pour out of Johann's hands to reach new heights and form castles in the air. A second vertical spread shows Bach as he "pulled out all the stops" on the organ to fill a church with sound that literally soars to the rafters. An afterword fills in the details of Bach's life as a family man and his career as a composer, and a list of source material, suggested listening, and websites is provided. An imaginative look at what sparked a musical genius.(Picture book/biography. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.