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Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo

The Mozart Question
A young journalist gets a chance of a life-time. She is allowed to interview a famous violinist when her boss can't do the interview because of an injury. The only instruction she is given is not to ask the Mozart question (whatever that is suppose to mean). The journalist doesn't ask the Mozart question so the violinist, Paolo Levi, thinks it's time to tell his story. At age nine, he pesters his mother so much that she finally shows him a violin that is hidden in the cupboard. He is so drawn to the violin that he sneaks out of the house to watch a street performer play the violin. This old person, Benjamin, fixes Levi's violin and gives him lessons.

This has all been done secretly without his parents knowledge. Benjamin instructs him that a secret is a lie by another name. Levi brings Benjamin to his house to meet his parents and to tell the truth. It turns out that his parents had previously met Benjamin. All of them had been forced to play the violin together in a concentration camp during World War II. Mama had felt as if music had saved them, so she saved her violin. Papa had the opposite opinion; he felt that the music they had played (mostly Mozart) reminded him too much of the Holocaust. He doesn't want anything more to do with music. Papa makes his son promise never to play Mozart in public.

It's amazing how two people can go through the same trauma and come out of it with different reactions. Does music have a healing effect? Do you like it when relatives keep secrets from you? Are you good at something or drawn to something for no reasonable explanation? This book is not just about the Holocaust or Mozart. This book brings up many thought-provoking ideas. Children that like violin or like music in general will appreciate this book. What about children who like history that need a fiction book? Children with empathy or those that need to develop more empathy will gain much from this Rebecca Caudill 2010 nominee. Ages 9 - 12

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