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Second Fiddle Library Binding – March 22, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

ROSANNE PARRY moved to Germany in the spring of 1990 just as the Berlin Wall was coming down. She ran away to Paris for one glorious weekend with her soldier husband, first-born baby, and an enormous purple stroller. The three of them are best friends to this day. Rosanne is the author of Heart of a Shepherd, which has been honored as a Washington Post's Best Kids' Book of the Year, a Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of the Year, and a Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year. She also plays the violin for which she has never been honored with a prize of any kind. She now lives in with her husband in an old farmhouse in Portland, Oregon, where they raise four children, three chickens, five kinds of fruit, and their voices in the occasional song. Visit Rosanne at

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, May 22, 1990

West Berlin

If we had known it would eventually involve the KGB, the French National Police, and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, we would have left that body in the river and called the Polizei like any normal German citizen; but we were Americans and addicted to solving other people's problems, so naturally, we got involved.

It began like every Tuesday afternoon. All the other kids from the American school on the army base at Zehlendorf went to the gym or the after-school matinee or the Scout meeting at the community center, but Giselle and Vivian and I took the S-Bahn to our music lesson in downtown West Berlin. Ordinarily, as soon as we found seats on the train, Vivian would get out her geometry book and Giselle would disappear under headphones with a new cassette from the latest girl rock star. If she remembered to bring extra headphones, I'd listen along, but usually I worked on writing my own music: minuets for the violin, mostly. Not nearly as hip as "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," but I had to start somewhere, and classical music was what I knew. Not that I'd admit this to just anyone, but classical music was what I loved--more than anything.

We were only five days away from the big Solo and Ensemble Contest in Paris. We'd been working on our competition piece, Pachelbel's Canon, since Christmas. Our music teacher thought we had a shot at first place in the twelve-to-fourteen-year-olds group, and Giselle's dad, General Johnson, had bragged to the entire brigade that we were going to clean up, so no pressure or anything. Not that I didn't love winning, but for me the big deal was that it was our first trip to Paris, and it would be our last time ever to perform together as a trio before the army moved Giselle and me back to the States.

So this time, Vivian and Giselle were listening to the Canon together on her Walkman. Vivian closed her eyes and hummed her part, and Giselle ran the fingerings of the tricky section with all the sixteenth notes. A German lady and her kids stared at us like usual. I used to think it was because Giselle was really pretty and kind of hard to miss because she was so tall, but after three years of riding the commuter train, I knew better. I'd never seen a black kid on the train; plenty of Turkish girls, but nobody as dark as Giselle.

We hopped off at the Potsdamer Platz and walked away from the park and museums and into the neighborhood of Kreuzberg, where our music teacher lived. We went right past Checkpoint Charlie--that guardhouse of Communism between the Soviet Union and the West. It was empty and dark as we walked past, abandoned as abruptly as the East Germans had voted out the Communist Party a few months before. The souvenir collectors and reporters had left months ago. Occasionally, we saw a few eager tourists chipping away at the sections of the Wall still standing, but today, nothing.

"So, Jody," Vivian said, "what do you want to see in Paris?"

"The Eiffel Tower," I said automatically. I loved tall things: roller coasters, bridges, the Statue of Liberty, the Space Needle. The upside of being a military kid was that you got to see a lot of cool places. The downside was that every time you made a friend, you had to move away.

"The Eiffel Tower? No way!" Giselle called over her shoulder. As usual, she was a half dozen strides ahead. "Everyone sees the Eiffel Tower. Boring! Let's go to the Racine Club."

"Where?" I said.

"It's a fencing school. The best one in all of France. My fencing master trained there, and he said he'd set up some bouts with the kids who are in training. Come on, it'll be fun!"

I watched one of Giselle's fencing matches last year. Right away I could see why fencing is not a sport on TV.

"Hello?" Vivian said. "This is Paris we're talking about--art museums? Ballet? Neither of you wants to go shopping?"

I, captain of the fashion clueless, shrugged.

"Let's see," Giselle said, turning to face us and extending both hands to weigh the options. "Shopping for fluffy, fruity-smelling French things or meeting Olympic-level athletes--tough call."

Giselle put her hands on her hips and looked down at Vivian, which is not hard even for me. Vivian was the size of your average fourth grader. Vivi glared right back, but it didn't have quite the same punch with her preppy girl clothes and Clark Kent glasses.

"How about this," I broke in as we rounded the corner and came to our music teacher's apartment house. "There's shopping on the Champs-Elysees, right?"

Vivian nodded and held open the door.

"Then we can go to the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the street--that's famous and tall, but not so dorky as the Eiffel Tower, okay?"

Giselle nodded and pushed the button for the elevator.

"And Giselle can, umm . . ."

"Stab anyone who tries to pickpocket us?" Vivian offered.

"Exactly!" I said. "You can stab them fifteen times if you like," I added, remembering how many touches made a match in fencing.

"Perfect!" Giselle said. "And while I go to jail, you two can go see a nice fluffy French ballet." She hip checked Vivian into the elevator as the door slid open and tugged my ponytail as she followed me in.

"I would bring you cake if you were in jail," I said.

"Yes," Vivi added. "Chocolate cake with a bomb inside and directions for your escape in secret code!"

From the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
  • Library Binding: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (March 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375961968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375961960
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,449,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rosanne Parry was born in Oak Park, Illinois She lives in Portland with her family in an old farm house full of books. She writes in a tree house in her back yard.

Her first novel Heart of a Shepherd was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, a Best Children's Book of the Year by the Washington Post, and a Horn Book Fanfare Book. Second Fiddle was named an INDY NEXT pic for the Spring 2011 list. It was a Parents' Choice Award winner 2011 and and Oregon Spirit Book Award winner in 2012. Her newest novel Written in Stone is a Junior Library Guild selection and won the Willa Award from Women Writing the West.

Her upcoming title The Turn of the Tide will be available in January of 2016

Rosanne presents workshops in person at writers' conferences and on line at The Loft Literary Center. She works with children of all ages in schools. If you wish to contact her for a school visit there is information about that on her website at .

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Hudson on May 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Jody and her friends, Giselle and Vivian, can't believe their music teacher has to cancel their trip to Paris for a musical competition. It was supposed to be the last chance they would have to play together before Jody and Giselle leave the U.S. Army base in Berlin and return to the U.S.

Then they witness the attempted murder of a Soviet soldier by his own officers. The girls realize the only way they can truly save his life is to smuggle him out of Berlin. And that trip to Paris may be just the way to do it--if they can figure out how to pull it off.

Second Fiddle by Rosanne Parry is set just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. As children of military or diplomatic parents, the girls in the story all live in homes that are highly disciplined. They're good kids, and because they've moved often they know how to adapt to different environments. But Giselle and Jody are nervous about their impending move. They're not sure they will fit in with the kids at school in the states, and they don't want to lose their friendship in the process.

Their decision to take the soldier to Paris, and the events that follow, can provide great things to discuss in a mother-daughter book club with girls aged 9 to 13. Issues to talk about include kids taking on responsibility, becoming more independent, contributing to important family decisions, and deciding whom they can trust. There's also plenty to talk about in regards to the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall, military family life, and visiting Paris. I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on March 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In her second novel for young people, Rosanne Parry takes us back to Berlin in 1990, at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in Eastern Europe. The novel has a terrific opening line:

"If we had known it would eventually involve the KGB, the French National Police, and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, we would have left that body in the river and called the Polizei like an normal German citizen..."

Our narrator, Jody, is a army kid, used to moving constantly and not forming bonds that are too tight. But she's made two really good friends in Berlin at the American school--Giselle and Vivian--and the three take music lessons together. As the novel opens, Jody will soon be moving back to the States since her father is retiring from the army. In the meantime, she and her friends are preparing for a chamber music ensemble contest in Paris when their teacher falls ill and tells them he can't be their chaperone on the trip from Berlin to France. On their way home from the lesson, the girls witness a terrible crime in East Berlin, and save a Soviet soldier from drowning in the river. When they get the idea to have him impersonate their music teacher--providing them with a chaperone and getting the young Estonian away from the Russian army in one fell swoop--they can't foresee what the consequences will be, nor who exactly the young Estonian might be. Is he friend or foe? Are the Russians following them on the train to Paris, looking for the Russian sergeant?

The three girls have the adventure of a lifetime in Paris, with lots of local color thrown in, including a stay at Shakespeare and Co., the famous English-language bookstore in Paris. This is an engaging story of friendship, music, and freedom set in what's a long-ago era for today's tweens--the end of the Cold War. A time before kids were constantly checking in via texting and phone with their parents--positively the Middle Ages for today's kids!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader on July 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a very cleverly imagined mystery, set in the distant past of 1990, in Berlin, not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Also, as promised by the cover, there is music.

Three girls have become friends by playing together in a string trio. Their music has linked them in friendship even though they come from different social worlds. Giselle's father is the commanding general of the American Forces in Berlin and Vivian's mother is the U. S. consul general to West Berlin. Jody's family lives in enlisted soldiers' quarters. Musically, Jody also plays second violin in the trio. As political change takes hold in Germany, many American diplomatic and military families are preparing to leave Berlin. These girls will probably not see each other again.

Their apprehension worsens when they learn their music teacher will not be able to take them to a music competition in Paris, This is a blow after all their practice and preparation. On their way home from their last lesson, they decide to cross into the East Berlin to console themselves with some gelato. The ease of their crossing is still somewhat unnerving as this used to be enemy territory. While there, they witness a terrible crime against a Soviet soldier and despite years of Cold War distrust, the three resolve to help him. As they plan, Jody sees a way to help the soldier and also get to Paris so they can perform together, one last time.

Parry conveys a sense of what it is like to be part of a military family living overseas. Despite frequent moves and her father's long work hours, Jody's family enjoys a sweet closeness. The author also captures the time and place perfectly. One side of the Brandenburg Gate is prosperous and booming, the other side is poor and grim.
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