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Janet Craig James
Waterloo (Ont.), Penumbra Press, 1992. 119pp, paper, $9.95
ISBN 0-921254-38-5. Distributed by University of Toronto Press

Grades 5 to 9/ Ages 10 to 14

Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson.

Volume 21 Number 4
1993 September

For Megan Richardson, fifteen, spending the summer holidays as part of the Young People's Orchestra is doubly exciting. First, qualifying for the orchestra is the initial step towards Megan's career goal of becoming a concert pianist. Secondly, being an only child of older parents and home-schooled, Megan has been isolated from peers her own age, a situation that will be temporarily rectified by living amongst the orchestra's fourteen- to twenty-year-olds.

Two "Yuppos," as the orchestra members nickname themselves, violinist Bronwyn Thomas and trumpet-playing "Slope" Mackenzie, become Megan's special friends. Unlike Megan, whose parents support her vocational choice, both Bronwyn's and Slope's respective fathers want to "shape" their children's lives. In Slope's after-practice hours Dixieland band, Bronwyn can do what she really wants to do, sing, while Slope plays the type of music he likes as opposed to the classical music favoured by his Toronto Symphony clarinetist father. Megan also enjoys playing Dixieland because she can extemporize, something not permitted while playing her favourite classical composer. Having heard Megan taking "liberties" with Mozart's music, the orchestra's leader had admonished, "Always remember, Megan, you don't mess with Mozart!"

Megan's commitment to her career goal is tested when a famous singer offers her an opportunity to perform the "back-up" piano accompanist's role on a world tour. Culmi­nating on the evening of the orchestra's final performance, the book offers a happy ending for the three principal characters. Though a knowledge of music is not essential to enjoy the book's gentle plot, music aficionados amongst middle school readers might more fully appreciate Craig James' occasional inclusion of details regarding Dixieland music.

A recommended additional purchase.

Dave Jenkinson teaches young adult literature with the faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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