9781771471046_interior Enlarge Cover
5 of 5
1 rating
list price: $17.95
also available: eBook
category: Children's Fiction
published: Sep 2015
publisher: Owlkids Books Inc.

Oscar Lives Next Door

A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson's Childhood

by Bonnie Farmer, illustrated by Marie Lafrance

tagged: music, canada

Long before Oscar Peterson became a virtuoso jazz pianist, he was a boy who loved to play the trumpet. When childhood tuberculosis weakened his lungs, Oscar could no longer play his beloved instrument. He took up piano and the rest is history: Oscar went on to become an international jazz piano sensation.
Oscar Lives Next Door is a fictional story inspired by these facts. The book imagines a next-door neighbor for Oscar named Millie, who gets into mischief with him but also appreciates his talents: Oscar hears music in everything, and Millie calls him a magician for the way he can coax melodies from his trumpet. Millie writes to Oscar during his long stay in the hospital for tuberculosis, and she encourages his earliest notes on the piano.
Set in Oscar’s true childhood neighborhood of St-Henri — now known as Little Burgundy — the book provides a wonderful sense of this 1930s neighborhood where most of Montreal’s Black working class population lived. Detailed digital illustrations make the community’s culture and music almost tangible.
The book concludes with a page of informational text about the author’s own connection to Little Burgundy and a short biography of the jazz legend.

About the Authors
Bonnie Farmer is an elementary school teacher, a children’s author, and a playwright living in Montreal, Quebec. Bonnie spent a part of her early childhood in Little Burgundy, the same neighborhood where Oscar Peterson grew up. She remembers its sights and sounds vividly and gets pangs of nostalgia each time she revisits familiar streets. Bonnie’s two most recent plays, Gollywog and Big Feelin’ have been work shopped at Black Theatre Workshop and Playwright’s Workshop of Montreal, respectively.

Marie Lafrance is an award-winning illustrator who has been drawing most of her life. Her illustrations appear in magazines, posters, newspapers, billboards, board games, picture books and her own personal favorite, boxes of jelly powder. Recently, Marie has evolved her craft from painting with brushes to creating her wonderful illustrations digitally. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.
Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
4 to 8
k to 4
  • Winner, Winner of the Quebec Writers' Federation Award for children's literature
Editorial Reviews

"A visual as well as a literary success."

— Montreal Review of Books

"This book encourages resilience in children and the pursuit of their dreams in spite of the obstacles they may encounter."

— Canadian Children's Book News

"The right tone of reality and fiction...Little Burgundy comes alive."

— CanLit for Little Canadians

"Captivating illustrations and wonderfully descriptive text."

— Booklist

"The best way to introduce children to the works of jazz pianist Oscar Peterson—well, it'd probably be by playing them the music itself. The second best way would be to read them Bonnie Farmer's picture book, Oscar Lives Next Door... Real biographical details are blended in with imagined moments... the book brings the neighbourhood to life, making it shimmer and hum on the page."

— The National Post

"Fresh, radiant, and skilfully illustrated...an exquisite picture book...unforgettable...highly recommended."

— Canadian Review of Materials

"Easygoing...satisfying...Oscar Lives Next Door has none of the pretentiousness that often plagues books attempting to teach children about art or "important" cultural figures."

— Quill & Quire

"An engaging look at the man who put Montreal and Little Burgundy on the map of jazz history."

— School Library Journal

"Farmer hits the high notes...Lafrance's stylized, digitally colored compositions present the community's buildings and activities in a serenely nostalgic way."

— Kirkus Reviews

"A wonderful inspiring tribute... An excellent guided reading and discussion resource for young students."

— Resource Links

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Top  Grade
Librarian review

Oscar Lives Next Door: A story inspired by Oscar Peterson’s childhood

A story based on the famous jazz musician Oscar Peterson's childhood in the Montreal neighbourhood Little Burgundy.

This is a strong example of biographical text told in picture book form. Oscar Peterson’s childhood is a story of triumph over adversity, and provides a good read-aloud source to teach perseverance while students are learning about character education. It is also a book that brings the music curriculum to life by demonstrating the way Oscar’s passion for playing an instrument led to success, and at the same time providing a strong Afro Canadian role model.

Also available: The Potato King by Christoph Niemann

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.

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