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Saturday, May 20, 2006

"In my heart" by Molly Bang

I was so fortunate to be able to read the text of "In my heart" long before its 2006 release as a picturebook. Fortunate, not just for the privilege from Molly, but also because, at the time, Roo was only three years old, and just beginning what would add up to be two and a half years of daycare.

There must be countless blog entries on the minor morning heartbreak of the daycare drop-off, and the feeling of all put back together that comes with the afternoon pick-up. How many days did I go round that circle? Hundreds.

And early on came these words from Molly, that begin "In my heart":

"You know how every morning,
I put on my shoes and coat, kiss you good-bye,
And walk out the door?
Well just as I'm leaving, I feel something in my heart.
I look inside,
And what do you think I find?

You! Right here in my heart."

Roo and I memorized that the very night the story landed in my email. And the next day, during the ride home, I asked her where she'd been all day, and she didn't miss a beat: "Right in your heart, Mum!"

Now she is seven point five, and I can still ask her, whenever we've been apart, "And where were you? Where were you? and she answers: "In your heart Mum! I was in your heart the whole time."

Thank you, Molly.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Okay, I know you can read a review of it below, which gives you a plotline as well. But I came across this summary from the publisher, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, which is a nice straight line through the story.

Magnifico a novel by Victoria Miles (ages 11+)

Mariangela dreams of playing the piano, but when she arrives home from school one day to find a curious-looking suitcase in the living room, she has a sneaky suspicion that she can no longer hide from her 'some-a day inheritance' Waiting for her in the suitcase is her grandfather's old accordion. Her Nonna is thrilled, and Mariangela, well--she wanted a piano! ...instead she finds herself pulling the old, ugly accordion behind her on a red wagon--the only way she can get to her lessons--through the streets of Vancouver. How embarrassing! Even her handsome accordion teacher, all the more intriguing for his missing two fingers, can't inspire a passion in Mariangela for the instrument. What does interest her though, is his stories. Through her teacher's at times hair-raising tales of his journey, Mariangela reaches a new understanding of her own family's need to find a place in the new world while staying connected to their past in Italy.

Young readers of many backgrounds and experiences will find meaning in this touching story layered with a multitude of themes. Drawing on her own mother's accordion misadventures, Miles creates a rich portrait of Italian immigrant life in 1930s Vancouver and of a young girl struggling with timeless inner conflicts. Funny and sad, painful and inspiring, Magnifico is above all a deeply satisfying read.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Every reviewer picks up on something different. And they are all right! If you're curious about the plot of "Magnifico" this review, from May's Quill & Quire describes it better than I can (no authors don't write their own flap jacket summariesthat tricky work is the job of the editor).

Magnifico
Victoria Miles; $19.95 cloth 1-55041-960-9, $11.95 paper 1-55041-991-9, 262 pp., 5x8, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, May (ages 11+) Reviewed from unbound galleys

Victoria Miles, already known as a science writer, turns her hand to historical fiction in this novel, set in 1930s Vancouver. Although she has asked for a piano, Mariangela Benetti finds that her grandmother and parents expect her to play her deceased grandfather's accordion, lovingly transported to Canada when the family emigrated from Italy. She resists with all her might, despite the jaunty playing of her music teacher, an Italian immigrant and ex-miner who has lost three fingers in a mining accident. But somehow, partly through her playing, Mariangela's world opens up little by little until at last, she's willing to learn for love--and to make music where it best suits her, which, on the day King George and Queen Mary come to town, is on a roof where the royal couple can see and hear her.

This is a warm family story, with characters lovingly and precisely sketched, from Mama (whose suitcase is always packed because she's ready to return to Italy at a moment's notice) and Papa (who remains loyal to his roots by practising swearing in Italian, but only out in the carpentry shed), to baby Emelina (who's such a deep sleeper that she falls out of bed regularly).

Miles's evocation of the place and period is light-handed and persuasive, coming always from the child's eye. She shows Mariangela's growth through small increments in the pleasures of friendship and in family solidarity, and in her budding awareness of the emotional lives of the adults around her. Mariangela's narrating voice has character and momentum, making this an enjoyable and cheering read. With its large print, accessible vocabulary and domestic story, it's a good choice for readers nine to 12. -- Deirdre Baker, co-author of A Guide to Canadian Children's Books, and children's book reviewer for the Toronto Star.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"It happened by the grace of God that Joseph Santangelo won his wife in a card game. This fateful game of pinochle took place in the back room of Santangelo's Sausage Shop, on Mulberry Street, in New York City, on the last night of the record-breaking heat-wave of September 1949.

That summer, each day dawned hotter than the day before, and the nights were worse than the days. All night, pregnant women draped wet washcloths over their faces, begged the Madonna for a good night's sleep, and thought how lucky Mary was that her baby had been born in December. Children, three and four to a bed, squirmed to escape each other's sweaty skin until their fathers' curses hissed through the dark and they dozed off only to wake, moments later, stuck together like jelly apples."

--the beginning of the novel "Household Saints" by Francine Prose, c. 1981, St. Martin's Press

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Until I figure out the sidebar linky thing (did I mention I'm new to this?)...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Have you read Magnifico yet? Maybe that's why you're here. Or maybe you were looking for a particular brand of pasta, and wound up here instead. Sorry, you can't eat this book, unless you make a steady diet of children's literature. Which I do, supplemented by chocolate and cheese.

The Magnifico at the heart of this blog is Magnifico by Victoria Miles (me); Fitzhenry and Whiteside; c. 2006. I hope you'll find it blogworthy. The thing about writing a book is, you spend all this time at a desk, and then it is months and months in production and finally out it comes and you want to talk about it because even though it's done, you're still having thoughts about it. There is some satisfaction, if not talking, to be typing.

And a book goes through stages, beginning its life in the marketplace, and you're along with it, reading the reviews, dreaming of screenplay possibilities, and how old you might be if it ever made it to the big screen, who you'd cast as Mariangela (and how far afield they'd have to look to find an eleven-year-old Italian-Canadian girl to play the accordion) what you'd wear to the Oscars, what you'd say to Oprah, what you'd wear to Oprah...

I'm only two paragraphs into this blog, and already wandering into the dressing room with an armful of ideas.