by Myles Tanzer, Illustrated by Ali Mac
My two daughters are voracious learners, so when we found this book about 80 notable musicians on the library shelves we borrowed it. My older daughter is 9, and she’s probably at the lower end of the target audience for Music is my Life – it’s a fun and colourful music primer that would probably suit a reader between 9 and 14.
Music Is My Life is best enjoyed with a phone or laptop at hand so you can listen to samples of the artists – it helpfully recommends sample tracks for each artist. The organisation of artists by theme – eg. “Chill Out To”, “Dance Around With” – is a nice touch. The book’s light, with a few paragraphs on each artist, which makes it nice for browsing.
It makes sense for a book that’s designed for tweens to skew heavily towards more recent music. This means that Music Is My Life is over-represented by recent female R&B artists; including SZA, Lizzo, Kelis, Beyonce, Kehlani, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Solange, and Janelle Monae in an 80-artist book feels like overkill. The book pointedly features a 50/50 gender split, but more diversity in female artists by considering more established artists like Billie Holiday, Kate Bush, or Fiona Apple would have helped.
Music Is My Life tries to represent as many countries as possible, which throws up some excellent, yet unexpected, choices like Japanese pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto and Spain’s Rosalía. It’s a shame that influential German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk aren’t included, as Germany isn’t otherwise represented. James Taylor is a controversial inclusion – it’s hard to justify his place when more significant vintage male artists like Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, and Neil Young are omitted.
Inevitably it’s easy to quibble about a music list, but Music is my Life does a good job of providing a fun and colourful primer for popular music.