So much of what we learn we get from picture books. This is especially true considering the rise in high-quality picture book biographies on the market. Through beautiful illustrations and prose, these biographies peel back history and bring the true stories of luminary figures to life. The Key from Spain: Flory Jagoda and Her Music is no exception.
Flory Jagoda grew up in Vlasenica, Bosnia, where the sounds of music and Ladino (the language of the Sephardim) filled her home and heart. Later, her family moved to Zagreb, Croatia, but just as her ancestors were forced to flee Spain during the Inquisition, Flory and her family were forced to flee Zagreb during the second World War. Flory eventually made her way to America, bringing Sephardic music with her, and today she is known as the “keeper of the flame.”
From the author’s note, it’s clear that this book was closely researched, but Debbie Levy’s telling of Flory Jagoda’s life isn’t a series of dry facts and figures; rather, it is full of flavor and feeling, sounds and sights – it is truly atmospheric. Likewise, illustrator Sonja Wimmer incorporates old maps in the backgrounds and dog-eared page corners that situate the reader in a particular place and time, but the focal point of her illustrations are scenes so vibrant, you can practically hear the music coming off the page.
This is why the Book Selection Committee chose The Key From Spain because it teaches us about an important and impressive woman who carried her heritage with her and, through her talents, shared her heritage with the world. It teaches us through prose and illustrations so engaging and captivating, we barely realize how very much we’ve learned.
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May 22, 2019