Written half a century ago, a children’s book about Beethoven finds a publisher


After rediscovering the manuscript, the 91-year-old Holocaust survivor put into practice his philosophy of refusing to take no for an answer. With the recent commemoration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday on December 16, 2020, Gruenbaum sent query letters to 230 literary agents and publishers. This time he found success with Austin Macauley Publishers, who published the book on March 31 of this year.

Although Gruenbaum continues to regard Beethoven as highly as ever, his focus in publishing the book has changed. It now focuses on the fact that Thelma has to be a talented writer, having so brilliantly shone the spotlight on others throughout her life.

“After all this time, I’m very happy to be able to do more to get his name out there,” said Gruenbaum, who Thelma portrayed in the book “Nesarim: Child Survivors of Terezin” just two years before her death. .

This book is a companion to Gruenbaum’s 2017 memoir, “Somewhere there is still a sun” written with Todd Hasak-Lowy and published by Simon & Schuster. In the memoirs, translated into 16 languages, Gruenbaum recounts his carefree childhood in Prague; the Nazi invasion that forced his wealthy family into the Jewish ghetto; the arrest and murder of her father, Karl; his incarceration from 1942 to 1945 at the Terezin concentration camp with his mother, Margaret, and older sister, Marietta; and their perseverance and sheer luck avoiding four separate transport missions to Auschwitz.

After initially immigrating to Cuba, Gruenbaum and his remaining family arrived in New York Harbor on July 4, 1950. Just eight years after Terezin’s release, Gruenbaum had learned English and earned a degree in civil engineering from MIT. He then met Thelma Yutan, his future wife, through a friend from Cuba while undergoing a six-month training program with the Illinois Department of Highways.

“I say I met my wife in Paris because it sounds so romantic,” Gruenbaum joked, not mentioning that he was actually referring to the town in Edgar County, Illinois.

Gruenbaum and Thelma bonded over their shared love of music and children, and their bond lasted after he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After two years of postings in the United States, the couple married on May 6, 1956.

Thelma and Gruenbaum shared higher education as well as literary aspirations. Thelma, a native of Springfield, Illinois, wrote the book “Before 1776: The Massachusetts Bay Colony from Founding to Revolution” and attended the University of Chicago for her undergraduate degree and graduate studies toward a Ph.D. Human Development.

The couple moved to New Haven so that Gruenbaum could earn his master’s degree in urban planning at Yale University. In 1961, Gruenbaum embarked on a career in traffic and transportation planning in the Boston area, during which time he wrote the book “Transportation Facts for the Boston Region”.

Gruenbaum then co-founded a consulting firm, in which Thelma also worked. When they retired together 14 years later, the couple traveled and adored their four grandchildren.

“We loved each other very much,” said Gruenbaum, who still lives in the same house in Brookline where he and Thelma moved in 1968. “We had a lot of good times.”

Today, Gruenbaum still appreciates the classical music of Beethoven, for whom he says he has “great respect” that is rooted in his own past.

“He had to overcome so many obstacles in his life, and yet that didn’t stop him from doing what he wanted to do: composing music the way he loved to do it, and like it had never been done before. before,” said Gruenbaum, who was delighted with the warm reception the book received. In addition to describing the story as “a charming and heartwarming portrayal”, the editor’s letter of acceptance stated, “The overarching theme of resilience and overcoming hardship throughout the life experiences of this renowned figure is sure to inspire all readers.”

Encouraged by this success, Gruenbaum is now looking for a publisher with “appropriate” distribution channels for Thelma’s book, “To Music and Children With Love: Reflections For Parents and Teachers”, which she wrote and self-published in 1979. David Tierney, Principal of Cambridge Friends School, has spent the past two years updating the manuscript.

“We are finally ready to seek out a publisher who understands its merits and the importance of bringing it to the attention of parents and teachers around the world who are interested in educating young children about music,” said Gruenbaum. “I hope it will spread too. »

For more information, visit michaelgruenbaum.com.

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