CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 20 . . . .June 9, 2006
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2006.
262 pp., cloth, $19.95.
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Jo-Anne Mary Benson.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
There is something about the accordion. It needs air. It breathes just like you and I do. You learn to breathe with it, and how you feel when you play it expands like the bellows. You feel sad – it’ll cry with you. You feel happy – it’ll lead the dance. Tired? It lifts you up. You want to celebrate, clap your hands, give a present – the accordion can do all that for you. You only have to ask her right.
During the Depression years, difficulties were experienced by everyone. In Magnifico, Victoria Miles captures this time period through the perspective of Italian immigrants and their family. She addresses numerous topics including family dynamics, discrimination, and language barriers. Magnifico is an enjoyable and absorbing novel as each chapter engages the reader to its rewarding conclusion.
The story is presented through the eyes of Mariangela, a young girl of 11, who lives in Vancouver with her parents and two younger sisters. Mariangela’s grandmother surprises the child with her late grandfather’s prized accordion. The accordion, which was initially viewed as an incredible burden, turns out to be a blessing. Mariangela initially persevered with her lessons, but with little enthusiasm, until she discovered a new style of learning and a goal that became her inspiration. She decided she was going to play for the King and Queen on the first visit of a reigning sovereign to Canada in l939.
The reader gets involved in the lives of the young sisters who flourish in such a loving family environment. The behaviour of a local bully is explained when it is discovered that his mother was battling tuberculosis in a sanitarium. The grandmother and the Momma share family secrets and stories about the old country. Gioseff, the accordion teacher, shares his heart wrenching tale of immigrating to Canada, working in coal mines, and the loss of his fingers. Finally, Papa, the forever optimist, is a supportive soul who would do anything for his family to make life better.
Victoria Miles incorporates numerous lessons within the context of the story and helps readers understand the challenges faced by new Canadians. The value of perseverance and optimism are repeatedly demonstrated by showing positive outcomes. Amidst the hardships during the Depression years, Miles adds balance to the story by also focusing on the highly anticipated visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Most importantly, music is shown to be a common denominator amongst cultures and people. The central feature of the book shows how music can portray emotions, transcend languages, and be a source of life and happiness to all listeners.
Jo-Anne Mary Benson of Osgoode, ON, is a writer/reviewer for North American magazines, newspapers, and journals.
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