The Genie Inside: Oscar Lives Next Door by Bonnie Farmer
ROOT-A-TOOT-TOOT GOES OSCAR'S TRUMPET.
BING BANG BOP GOES OSCAR'S PIANO.
"WE'RE MOVIN'!" SAYS DADDY, PULLING THE PILLOWS UP OVER HIS EARS.
"THAT OSCAR BINGS, BANGS, AND BOPS TOO MUCH!"
But Milly loves Oscar's trumpet, and the horns and piano his brothers and sisters play next door. And she's glad that they never do move away from the fun next door.
Oscar is her friend. Together they race each other down the streets of St. Henri, pretending to be elephants with swinging trunks or high-stepping horses. Sometimes they are partners in crime.
WE GIDDYUP BACK TO THE CHURCH TO PLAY A TRICK ON REVEREND JAMES.
WE BANG ON THE CHURCH DOOR AND HIDE. REVEREND JAMES POKES HIS HEAD OUT OF A WINDOW.
"OSCAR! MILDRED!" HE YELLS! "COME OUT OF THOSE BUSHES!"
WE DON'T STOP RUNNING 'TIL WE'RE BACK HOME.
Then one day Oscar's cough turns into a fever and he's very sick. The doctor says he has tuberculosis and must stay in the hospital until he gets well. Millie misses her friend and is sorry to hear that he is so lonely there that he refuses to speak to anyone. She can't visit Oscar, but she can send him a special card.
The trick that we played on Reverend James did not make you sick.
Get better and come home soon,
Love, Millie XOXOXOXO
After a long time Oscar comes home, but he is discouraged to learn that he when he blows into his trumpet, no sound comes out.
He patiently disassembles his instrument to look for the problem.
"I WANT TO SEE WHERE THE MAGIC COMES FROM," HE SAYS.
"MAYBE THERE IS A GENIE INSIDE THE PIANO, TOO," I SAY.
WHEN OSCAR'S FINGERS TOUCH THE KEYBOARD, IT SOUNDS LIKE ROLLING THUNDER.
But the genie is not inside the piano, but in Oscar's mind and fingers, in Bonnie Farmer's Oscar Lives Next Door: A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson's Childhood (OwlKids, 2015). Farmer, who grew up decades later in the same neighborhood in Montreal as Oscar Peterson, nostalgically provides a warm setting for the childhood of one of the piano jazz greats of the twentieth century. Told simply through the eyes and voice of Oscar's fictional friend Millie, we see Oscar studying and practicing his piano and getting that magic inside himself. Marie LaFrance's soft faux naif illustrations, night scenes in deep blue tones and sunny city streets where children play, capture the charm and warmth of a small enclave where a girl can watch and listen from her porch to hear her best friend playing next door. This is a homey look at the boy before he grew into the man who became a jazz star.
Some people say, "it's the music that is important," and of course that comes first. But lasting music comes out of the mind and heart and, yes, the body of a musician, and a book for children that portrays how that happened for the celebrated greats has value in opening up the music to children. There is a magic in the music--a genie inside the horn or the piano--but it takes a real person to coax that spirit out. Farmer's elegant picture book biography captures the time and place, the musical family, and the milieu of the close community in which his talents grew. Oscar, heartbroken that he can no longer get a song from his trumpet, nevertheless courageously turns to another instrument and the rest is jazz history.
For young fans, picture biographies of famous musicians include Bird & Diz, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey When Bob Met Woody: The Story of the Young Bob Dylan Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her, Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles, and Keith Richards' memoir of his grandfather, Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar