Friday, October 06, 2006

Stories and Music

It didn't occur to me until I came to write this post that two of the wonderful YA books I've recently read -- Hannah Waters and the Daughter of Johann Sebastien Bach and Magnifico -- both have similar threads running through them. The main protagonists are young girls (Hannah and Catharina in the former and Mariangela in the later) who have personal challenges but who also have music playing a central role in their lives. Hannah plays the violin and is struggling to learn a piece that was very important to her late mother and to her father (as well, as we learn, to other characters in the book), Catharina has a lovely singing voice, but it goes unnoticed -- as she feels she does -- to her father, Johann Sebastien Bach, and Mariangela would much rather play the piano than the accordion she is saddled with. They were both wonderful reads. I read Magnifico to my nine-year-old and she enjoyed it very much. (We particularly loved saying the name, Mariangela, out loud!) Author Victoria Miles captured the feeling of pre-WWII Vancouver and the challenges facing an immigrant family. Mariangela is a thoroughly likeable character, as are her spunky sisters. You can learn more about Magnifico here. It's a new book and I think it has a great future.

Hannah Waters and the Daughter of Johann Sebastien Bach by Barbara Nickel came out in 2005 and it quickly found itself on the short-list of many awards, including the Mr. Christie's Book Award, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the Governor General's award. All of the attention is well-deserved. Read more here. Both books say they are targetted for children ages 11 and up, but I think Magnifico is fine for younger children, too.