Gr 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 Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Australian author French's (All We Know) sensitively observed novel offers up quiet notes of joy while conveying the pain of a fatherless child. Narrator Ari and his mother have moved from Germany to Australia, where his mother owns a small caf?. Ari was three when his father died, and now struggles between yearning for memories of his father ("My dad lived in a small photo," he states) and acceptance of his stepfather, a good man who loves him and allows him his personal space. Two things bring Ari joy-his music, a force that emerges on the page as Ari shifts from player to fledgling composer, and his beloved Opa (grandfather), who is also his mentor and teacher. Opa's death plunges Ari into a dark, anguished period of questioning his love for music. The narrative oscillates between Ari's recollections of traveling throughout Europe with his mother at ages six and eight, and different points in Ari's life in Australia, where Ari gradually learns to share his music with those around him. The understated prose sets off the thunderousness of the emotions, and French, who avoids tear- jerking, wins readers fair and square with a tender approach-as well as a protagonist who grows immensely. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.