A boy’s passion for music unlocks a painful secret — and draws his family together — in a multilayered tale by an outstanding author-illustrator pair.
Like any young boy, Paolo becomes obsessed with what he can’t have — in his case, a violin. Hidden away in his parents’ room, it beckons the boy to release the music inside it. The music leads Paolo to a family secret, a story of World War II that changed the course of his parents’ lives. But once the truth is told, the family is reunited in a way no one had thought possible. From Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman comes a story about sharing the joy of music from one generation to the next and about music’s power to transform and heal.
Just three weeks in to her fledgling career, cub reporter Lesley is handed the opportunity of a lifetime. Stepping in at the last minute for her hospitalised boss, Lesley is whisked away to Venice to interview world famous Violinist Paolo Levi. She has strict instructions to focus on the music and avoid asking the private musician any personal questions and under no circumstances should she ask the Mozart question. The only problem is that Lesley has no idea what the Mozart question is.
Twenty four hours later, sat drinking mint tea in the virtuoso’s sparse living quarters, Lesley discovers that Paolo has other ideas. For over forty years he has kept a promise and protected his family’s story, but now the time has come to tell the truth.
Filled with the compulsion to make music, one boy discovers his great gift when holding his fathers abandoned Violin for the first time. Exploring his new found passion leads to the discovery of his parent’s history, exposing the raw wounds of their holocaust experiences and the exploitation of the musical talent that was the key to their survival.
While undoubtedly emotive, Morpurgo handled the subject matter beautifully. Providing enough detail to educate and evoke emotion, but not too much as to overwhelm young readers. I sat reading this account with watery eyes, and at one point I felt a shiver of cold revulsion spread down my spine. Despite the horror of this bleak period in our history and mans ability to harm his fellow man, The Mozart Question, ultimately left me feeling uplifted. I was able to turn the final page with a small smile on my face, as in counterbalance to mans cruelty, Morpurgo shows us the beauty of mans love.
Michael Foreman’s illustrations fit the story perfectly. The use of muted colours conveys the seriousness of the subject matter, while the softness of the water colours allow the illustrations to sit within the text without distracting from the story, that is until afforded a full or half page. The artist’s talents are revealed in these larger images, capturing the mood and essence of the iconic images of the holocaust, that as adults have already had some exposure to.
This is the first and only Michael Morpurgo book I’ve read. I know, I know, where have I been?!(Hangs head in shame). I plan to amend this oversight by checking out other Morpurgo titles and sharing them with my children when they are old enough to appreciate them.
Verdict: At just eighty pages this small book packs a large emotional punch.
Reviewed by Caroline