BROKEN STRINGS, by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer, Puffin Canada, Sept. 10, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 10-14)
The power of music to hurt and to heal is explored in Broken Strings, by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer.
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers — and the death of her beloved grandmother — Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school.
Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner — strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful. —Synopsis provided by Puffin Canada
I recently watched a television program out of the UK that focuses on restoring items. In this particular episode, the item being repaired was a violin with a history of unimaginable pain and joy. It was a moving story that has stayed with me for days.
I experienced the same feelings while reading Broken Strings. The violin in this story has a similar past, and I could not help but ponder the complexities music conveys at all levels.
Though Broken Strings deals with heavy material, I think more mature middle-graders would be fine reading it, particularly if reading/discussing with a parent, teacher, etc.
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