Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Mozart Question

The Mozart Question

Fall 2008 Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Illustrator: Michael Foreman
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3552-7
Hardcover Price: $15.99
Michael Morpurgo succeeds at the impossible in this slim but gracefully written book. He finds a warm, human element in the most gruesome event in modern history; the Holocaust.

Set in modern-day Europe, Lesley McInley, a young beat reporter for the arts section of a British newspaper, is given the assignment of a lifetime when her boss is unable to do it herself. She is sent to Venice to interview the famous violinist Paolo Levi, perhaps the greatest artist of his time.

The only hurried instruction Lesley is given is to by all means avoid the Mozart question. Rattled by nerves in the great musician's apartment, and not having any idea what the Mozart question is, Lesley asks a much safer one: "What made you pick up a violin and play that first time?" She gets the answer to the Mozart question, of course, which is the story of Paolo Levi's parents and the discovery he made as a young boy.

In an Author's Note, Morpurgo writes that he based his story on the Jewish musicians in concentration camps who were pulled away to play in orchestras as the other prisoners were herded from trains to the chambers. They often played Mozart. The image is haunting, to say the least, but Morpurgo manages to juxtapose it with beauty. Like all good stories, this one is about many things - love and loss, passion, commitment, truth and beauty.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2008 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

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