Irving Berlin: Say it with Music

Title: Say it with Music
Author: Tom Streissguth
Pages: 64
Recommended Ages: 9 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

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I’d never heard of Irving Berlin before purchasing this book. I thought he would be some small fry composer. Imagine my shock to discover that he was the composer behind White Christmas, God Bless America and a host of other popular songs, some of them favorites of mine…

His Life.

Born in Russia, Irving Berlin immigrated to America with his family in the 1890s after their house and belongings were destroyed in a pogrom. Only then he wasn’t Irving Berlin. He was Israel Baline. As a young boy, he sold newspapers on the streets of New York City and, as this was often a dull job, he passed his time singing. He soon discovered that his voice earned as much for him as the newspapers he was selling.

Irving decided to make a living off of his voice – he began to perform is saloons, and soon, he was hired by Harry Von Tilzer, a music publisher, to help popularize the songs that he was publishing. From popularizing the works of other musicians to composing his own jingles was a natural progression.

From there, Irving was hired to compose a songs for Broadway shows. It was during this time that Irving met Dorothy Goetz. They married quickly and were happy together for five short months before Dorothy died of typhoid fever.

When WWI began, Berlin was drafted into the U. S. Army. Although marched about and drilled from morning to night, Irving still found time to write, and even put on a show (Yip, Yip, Yaphank) that earned $80,000 for the U. S. Army.

Irving struggled to adjust to the changes in the music industry after WWI. But he kept fighting and writing and making a name for himself. Soon, Irving met and married Ellin Mackay. Together, they had three daughters – Mary, Linda, and Elizabeth.

Irving’s many wonderful compositions live on and are still enjoyed but millions across the globe.


Irving marries his second wife against her father’s wishes. Her father disinherited her when he heard of her marriage.

Luck and magic are each mentioned once.

Concluions. A fine introduction to one of Broadway’s great composers.

The Secret Agent and Other Spy Kids

Title: The Secret Agent
Author: Allan Zullo
Pages: 147
Recommended Ages: 12 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!


Remember The Secret is Out? The Secret Agent follows the same idea, only all of its characters are youths.

Their Lives.

1)      The Carolina Heroine. Emily Geiger serves the Patriot cause by helping her partially-paralyzed father supply the Patriots with food from their crops. But when a more thrilling, more dangerous opportunity comes, she jumps at it. Will Emily safely deliver General Greene’s message to General Sumter, or will she be caught?

2)      The Texas Rat. Kit Benson doesn’t want to leave his family’s log cabin, but he has no choice. The ruthless Mexican general, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna has destroyed the Alamo and is now making his way towards their home, destroying everything in his path. So, when the opportunity comes to deliver important information to General Sam Houston, Kit doesn’t hesitate. But will he be caught before he reaches Houston’s camp?

3)      The Newsboy. Charles Phillips pretends to be a regular newsboy, selling papers on the streets of Richmond, Virginia. And he is a newsboy – but that’s not all he is. He’s also a spy who ferrets information out of the men he sells papers to. But Jim and Tom Smith, fellow newsboys, seem to suspect that Charles is more than he seems. Charles must be careful…

4)      The Rebel Joan of Arc. Belle Boyd loves her Southern life and is deeply disgusted by the uncouth Union soldiers who now occupy her beloved Shenandoah. But if by mingling with the soldiers, she can gain useful information for the Confederacy – now that is a different matter altogether!

5)      The Slave Boy. Charley Felton didn’t plan to be a spy – all he wanted was to escape from his cruel master’s plantation and begin a new life in the North. But when he overheard his master speaking of important military plans, he knew he didn’t have a choice. He must warn the Union soldiers!

6)      The Boy Martyr. David Dodd is just an ordinary boy – until the day his friend, Confederate General James F. Fagan, lightheartedly suggests that he spy while conducting business in enemy territory. And so, he does, and by doing so, he becomes embroiled in a greater mess than he could ever have imagined…

7)      The Boy Scout. Joe Leysin is ecstatic to meet Baden-Powell, a member of the British Secret Service, and learn spying techniques from him. Joe believes that he has spotted a few spies himself, and goes in to discover them. He soon learns that unmasking a spy is far more difficult than he knew!

8)      The School Girl. Marguerite Vourc’h is from a patriotic French family. So, when that beast, Adolph Hitler invades her native land, she retaliates with the best that she can give – her unique spying abilities!

9)      The Peasant Girl. Nobody suspects Ingeborg Klein of being a spy. But that’s just what she is. She fits perfectly into the little French village where she and her mother live – speaks the language like a native – but she is German born. She knows the language. And she uses her knowledge against the Nazis!

10)   The Hungry Orphan. Choon Kyung Ko has the perfect alias identity; he pretends to be a poor beggar, orphaned by the recent tragedies which have ravaged Korea. And he is an orphan. But he is also a spy who penetrates the enemy’s camps and reports back information to his friends in South Korea. Will his very audacity keep him alive, or will he be found out?


Emily Geiger goes on several missions without asking permission of her father. He and she support the same cause, but she (correctly) believes that he would not allow her to participate in dangerous missions if she asked permission of him.

Belle Boyd notoriously used her beauty to extract important information from enemy soldiers. Called the ‘Siren of the Shenandoah’ and ‘Cleopatra of the Secession’, Belle was a first rate flirt. Nothing truly inappropriate is included from her exploits, but she is portrayed in mildly flirtatious situations.

David Dodd encourages mild flirting amongst soldiers and local girls as a method of gathering information.

A soldier says that he will kiss Ingeborg Klein, but she is disgusted at the thought and forestalls the event.

Marguerite Vourc’h has a crush on one of her fellow agents.

Several war-related lies are told. One girl tells an additional, unnecessary lie.

‘God’ is used three times, ‘Dieu’ once. ‘Darn’ is used twice and ‘damn’ and ‘gee’ once each.

Conclusion. Exciting accounts of remarkably brave youths who served their country with steadfastness.