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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.

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