(A Full color storybook)
by Tony Johnston
Epiphany library section 9 A: Juvenile, (K-5), Religion and Values
This true story told in the first person concerns a boy whose happy family life is destroyed when the family is forced to go to a concentration camp. His only link to his happy past is a harmonica his father gave him. He plays Schubert on it! When a camp officer hears him play, he forces the boy to come and play for him every night. At first the boy hates to do this but knows he will be killed if he refuses.
An interesting thing happens though. Eventually he realizes that the camp inmates can hear him play, and his music provides them with joy, beauty and hope in a hopelessly grim situation. From then on he plays with all his heart, for his father, his mother, and fellow prisoners.
After the war, this boy came to America. The afterword says, “Again with the aid of his harmonica, he shared his experience with others, especially teenagers, in the hope that they might bring about a better future. Although he died in 2001, his is an ongoing story of the power of music and the strength of the human heart.”
Although this book has an easy-to-read text, the subject matter is rather mature, so I recommend it for 4th and 5th graders as part of additional reading about the Holocaust. I suggest children first read the The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy and Don’t Forget by Patricia Lakin. I recommend parents read these books with their children to introduce them to the Holocaust, not an easy subject, but so very important for children to learn about. Only by learning about and dissecting the Holocaust can we identify, thwart, and punish mass murder today. And it still takes place, and again, often for religious reasons (ISIS, Boko Haram, etc.)