At the time of Ludwig van Beethoven’s death, it was a common practice to take a lock of hair from the deceased as a remembrance, a sacred remnant of the person who meant so much when alive. One such lock of Beethoven’s hair survived through the years and eventually became the joint property of two men who, in 1995, opened the sealed frame that encased the hair and began the process of unlocking the mysteries of Beethoven’s life, death, and possibly his genius.
Follow the trail of Beethoven’s hair as it was passed on from the boy who cut it to his son and down through the years, as it was safeguarded from Nazi Germany and eventually sold at auction in 1994. Through careful forensic testing, the hairs in the lock revealed the causes of Beethoven’s deafness and his many illnesses. This fascinating story is not only a study of the secrets that forensics can reveal, but a moving history of many people’s devotion to Beethoven’s music.
Husband and wife team Russell Martin and Lydia Nibley follow the success of Martin’s adult book, Beethoven’s Hair, with this retelling for younger readers.
About the Author
Russell Martin is the author of more than a dozen books, including Picasso’s War (Dutton) and Beethoven’s Hair (Broadway), a national bestseller for adults and Washington Post Book of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California. Lydia Nibley is a writer and producer of books, films, and television projects. She’s also the creator of ZiNj, an award-winning children’s science magazine and television series. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
Read an Excerpt
Ludwig van Beethoven’s hair spread wildly out from his head and blew in all directions as he took his daily stroll through the city of Vienna. He had a habit of clasping his hands behind his back, his head thrusting forward, and he talked in an odd, lumbering way. His expression was often foreboding, and his eyes appeared small but bright. His complexion was dark and his face had been pockmarked by smallpox when he was a boy. Although his mind was full of music, he could not hear the noise of the great city in which he trod. The deafness that years before had begun to rob him of subtle sounds by now had reduced his world to silence, and he could hear only the music he imagined. Yet Ludwig van Beethoven, this strange figure who sometimes was mistaken for a tramp because his clothes were dirty and his appearance so disheveled, was actually the most celebrated composer in the world.
Excerpted from "The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair"
Copyright © 2014 Russell Martin.
Excerpted by permission of Charlesbridge.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Beethoven: A Lock of Hair
2. The Detective Work Begins
3. Beethoven: A Young & Extraordinary Talent
4. The Better Medicine
5. Beethoven: This Wretched Life
6. The Boy Who Cut Beethoven’s Hair
7. Passed from Father to Son
8. Fleeing the Nazis
9. Hope for Escape
10. Hair for Sale
11. Beethoven: Ode to Joy
12. Two Americans with a Dream
13. From Denmark to Arizona
14. Beethoven: The Disgrace
15. Science Solves Old Mysteries
16. The Unknowable Secrets of History
17. Remaining Mysteries & Important Answers
18. Beethoven: The Comedy Is Finished
Notes from the Authors
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a book that couldn¿t be written until recently. The science wasn¿t available to answer the questions it asks. The mysteries surrounding Ludwig von Beethoven¿s life and death are thoroughly researched and some of the answers have become available only after generations have passed. Why was Beethoven sickly most of his life? Did he die of natural causes? How was it possible to save a lock of his hair for almost 150 years? Can today¿s science discover the cause of his deafness and death? The story begins, as many mysteries do, with the simple act of a young boy. As was the custom in his day, he clips a lock of Beethoven¿s hair while paying his respects immediately after the great man¿s death. What happens to the lock of hair and to the family who has it is an absorbing tale with several plot twists and turns. The story is interwoven with an introduction to Beethoven¿s life and his music. Along the way, more questions are asked. It isn¿t until two American Beethoven enthusiasts purchase the lock of hair, and make it available for forensic testing, that some of the mysteries are solved. This edition was an adaptation of the adult book Beethoven¿s Hair by the same author. The juvenile version, like the adult version, alternates chapters about Beethoven¿s life and ill-health with chapters on the history of the relic lock of hair. Both adequately, if not in-depth, discuss the forensic science used to discover the cause of his illness and death. The juvenile version includes black and white photographs to elaborate on the story and the science. It is, overall, a simplified example of the already simply presented adult book. It seems that the author struggled with whether to present the material as a mystery novel or as a science book. The conflict generated a voice that is neither authoritative nor entertaining. Although the popular subject of forensics would attract some readers, the book would more likely only interest the small group of young readers who have some familiarity with Beethoven. It does have an index and a good table of contents but, having read both books, my recommendation is to purchase the adult version and forgo the younger edition. There would be a larger audience for the original work. Grades 5-9
A lock of hair was cut from Beethoven's corpse by a young student. It was preserved in a locket and handed down from father to son to daughter. The book traces the journey of this locket as it travels from Germany to Denmark where it was given to a Doctor aiding Jews fleeing Hitler. the daughter of that doctor eventually had to sell it and it wound up in the hands of two Americans. Both of whom held Beethoven in great esteem. The hair was tested and found to have massive amounts of lead which could account for Beethoven's many ailments even including his hearing loss. It's a fascinating journey and brings Beethoven's life together with modern history up to the present.
A young student removes a lock of hair from Beethoven's corpse and preserves it. It passed from generation to generation. The hair is eventually used to find the cause of Beethoven's death. Writing teachers can have students refer to "Notes from the Author" to give students advice on writing a book. It also explains ways to conduct research. History teachers can use this a reference for the treatment of Jews in Denmark. They can also create a timeline of how the hair passed from generation to generation. Science teachers can use this to discuss conditions of lead poisoning, as well as using it for a lead in to forensic science. Music teachers can use it as a reference about Beethoven's life, and students can see how events in his life influenced his compositions. The book goes back and forth between discussing Beethoven's life and how the relic traveled into the hands of scientists. The style is easy to follow. The books has many pictures, including pictures of Beethoven and some of the owners of the lock of hair.