From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8-An unusual and gripping coming-of-age story. Ari Huber, 11, and his mother have moved from Germany to Australia, where she runs a caf with his new stepfather. Through flashbacks of a train trip across Europe when he was six and a visit to Australia at age eight, French explores the child's closeness with his mother and grandfather and the events that led to the move. The flashbacks; one-sided phone conversations; e-mails; and well-translated, conversational German add depth to the story and build connections between Ari's present and past. His talent as a violinist plays a major part in the novel, as he uses his music to come to terms with the death of his barely remembered father and beloved grandfather, but French's themes move beyond the world of music with a realistic picture of a boy deciding whether to stand out from the crowd. His single mother's struggles add an unusually realistic picture of the role of adults in a child's life. While he seems quite mature for his age, his concerns are timeless and permit this deceptively simple story to retain a strong appeal for a somewhat older audience. This well-constructed novel challenges readers to think about their own families, talents, and "where in the world" they might be.Beth L. Meister, Yeshiva of Central Queens, Flushing, NY
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Gr. 5-8. Winner of Australia's 2003 Patricia Wrightson Award, this is one of the few novels for the age group that handles the topic of music with a musician's sensibility. Ari and his mother have moved from Germany to settle near Sydney; a silver-framed photograph is the only concrete reminder Ari has of his father, who died when Ari was three. Struggling to fit in at a new school, speak a new language, and adjust to his stepfather, Ari doesn't let anyone at school know he plays the violin, for fear of seeming weird. Most of all, he misses his grandfather, the source of his musical inspiration. Through a fluid blend of recollections and support from the adults around him, Ari finds a way to reconnect with his father and overcome the shyness and sadness that keep him from performing on stage at the family cafe. The lyrical writing style suits the theme of musical improvisation in a story that's poignant without being overly sentimental. Louise BrueggemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved