Irving Berlin came to the United States as a refugee from Tsarist Russia, escaping a pogrom that destroyed his village. Growing up on the streets of the lower East Side, the rhythms of jazz and blues inspired his own song-writing career. Starting with his first big hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band," Berlin created the soundtrack for American life with his catchy tunes and irresistible lyrics. With "God Bless America," he sang his thanks to the country which had given him a home and a chance to express his creative vision.



    “An immigrant, a talent—and America itself was changed. The true story of Irving Berlin, his songs, and American music. Beautifully, artfully done.”
    —Jane Yolen, award-winning author of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight

    “Nancy Churnin does a remarkable job of condensing Irving Berlin’s long and productive life into a narrative that will appeal to children and introduce them to one of America’s greatest songwriters.”
    —Philip Furia, author of Irving Berlin: A Life in Song

    “A delightful historical narrative with pop, pizzazz, and color, just like Irving Berlin himself. Children and adults alike will enjoy reading this fantastic journey to the birth of the song God Bless America.”
    —Mary Jo Guidice, Director of Libraries, Dallas

"...Irving was a machine, churning out all those patriotic songs. That he had good reason to do so. That when he created “God Bless America” it was an amalgamation of his past and his present and the world (and times) in which he lived. More to the point, it’s yet another reminder that this man was an immigrant who paid back his new country tenfold with his talent. Together, Churnin and Sanchez have created a timely biography that says a lot about the world in which we live and, as a bonus, just happens to be gorgeous to the eye and ear alike. More like this please!"

--Betsy Bird, Fuse 8, School Library Journal

"A book to share that celebrates an immigrant and his abiding love for his adopted country, its holidays, and his “home sweet home.”

--Kirkus Reviews

Chrunin cuts right to the heart of Berlin’s story and together with Sanchez’s illustrations, they create a simple, heart-felt biography of the composer.  I would love to use this in any music class.

--Kiss the Book, EL (K-3), EL – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

"This richly-colored picture biography details Irving Berlin's younger years as he struggled to develop his musical talent. The illustrations make evocative use of shadow and light, creating a sense of movement across the pages. The reader is drawn into Berlin's world of New York streets and music-filled rooms. The text is dense enough to be informative, yet spare enough to keep the attention of young readers. This lovely book is highly recommended for ages 7 to 12."

--Jewish Book Council

Irving Berlin and his family arrived in America as countless immigrant families did: in New York Harbor, with the Statue of Liberty serving as a welcoming beacon (“ ‘God bless America,’ Irving whispered”). Through vivid storytelling, Churnin describes young Irving’s impressions of the unfamiliar city: “Walking home, the melodies in his head mixed with the crack of stickball games, the wail of the ragmen, and the creak of cartwheels on the cobblestones.” After his father’s death, Berlin earns money by writing and singing songs on the street, then at a restaurant; a fortuitous job at a song-writing company leads to his success. Yet Churnin recounts how fame doesn’t diminish Berlin’s gratitude for his life in America: he gave all of the proceeds for his hugely popular song “God Bless America” to the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Sanchez’s handsomely stylized graphics offer visual depth that hints at the many stories unfolding within Berlin’s New York City community; readers will recognize Berlin in the crowds by his long red scarf, which curls emotively throughout the pages. Ages 7–12. (May)

--Publishers Weekly

...a fascinating and accessible picture book biography of the great songwriter, in a lovely narrative that is alive with music from the very beginning.

--Jean Westmoore, The Buffalo News

Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made American Sing can be used as a stand-alone biography, and is also useful for building background knowledge related to immigration, fine arts, New York, and patriotism. With its thorough back matter and especially fine binding, this is a worthwhile addition to school and home bookshelves.

--Gary Anderson, "What's Not Wrong"

This children’s picture book about one of America’s greatest songwriters – who wasn’t actually born in the United States of America – is an absolutely marvelous biographical tribute. Author Nancy Churnin somehow manages to tell the entire Irving Berlin life story in thirty-two gorgeously illustrated pages, hitting the highlights, catching the struggles and the passions of the young man who gave us songs such as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” “Easter Parade”  “White Christmas” and “God Bless America.”

Although I had heard it before, I had forgotten that Irving Berlin never took any money, personally, for “God Bless America” but instead donated the proceeds to Girl and Boy Scouts.

Churnin captures the spirit of the American Dream – that America is a land of infinite possibilities and that you can do or be anything or anyone if you want it badly enough and work for it.  Who would have guessed that a Russian immigrant child would become one of America’s greatest song-writers?

James Rey Sanchez is the artist for the book and his work is a tremendous complement to the book.  The art reminds me of the stylistic animation from the United Productions of America and Warner Brothers studios of the 1950’s.  It is very eye-catching and children will have a lot to look at and not be bored while parents read the book out loud.

Looking for a good book? Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing by Nancy Churnin and James Rey Sanchez is an all-around wonderful book and should be in every library in the country and on as many family bookshelves as possible.


Ever wonder why Irving Berlin was dreaming of a "White Christmas"? Here are my thoughts in The Dallas Morning News: