Synopses & Reviews
Tony Johnston is the author of over 100 books for children, including THE CAT WITH SEVEN NAMES and THE BARN OWLS. She lives in California.
A father's gift of a harmonica brings a young boy comfort and ensures his survival. Inspired by the life of a Holocaust survivor.
Based on a true survivor story, this powerful picture book is yet another astonishing Holocaust account for discussion. A Polish Jewish child, blissfully happy with his loving parents, gets a harmonica from his coal-miner father and learns to play Schubert while his parents dance. The realistic mixed-media, double-page illustrations contrast that glowing warmth of home with the darkness that comes when Nazi soldiers break down the door, separate the boy from his family, and send him to the camps. His harmonica becomes his solace. The commandant hears about the child's playing. He orders the boy to play Schubert and throws him bread. In the end, however, the music does nothing to humanize the brutal Nazis. In fact, one unforgettable picture shows the commandant blissfully listening to the music, one hand over his heart and the other holding a whip. The home memories are idyllic, but there's absolutely no sentimentality about the child's survival.
Johnston gives children and grown-ups lots to talk about here--for example, Can a person be both sensitive and cruel?
This powerful story, inspired by the life of a Holocaust survivor, is a testament to the human spirit and the transcendent power of music.
When the Nazis invaded Poland, a family is split apart. The parents are sent to one concentration camp, their son to another. Only his father's gift, a harmonica, keeps the boy's hopes alive and, miraculously, ensures his survival. When an officer discovers his talent, he makes the boy play each night. Through music the boy invokes his parents and brings comfort to the other prisoners, lifting their spirits if only for a moment at time.
Ron Mazellan's luminous artwork depicts the bleakness of the time, while letting the beauty that hope can bring through the darkness shine.
About the Author
When the Nazis invaded Poland, a family is split apart. The parents are sent to one concentration camp, their son to another. Only his father's gift, a harmonica, keeps the boy's hopes alive and, miraculously, ensures his survival.
Tony Johnston's powerful story, inspired by the life of a Holocaust survivor, is enhanced by Ron Mazellan's luminous artwork.
A testament to the human spirit and the transcendent power of music.