Review Detail

Music in World War II
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Gusta Neubronner is on a bus from New York City to a small town in Maine in 1941 when her father disappears. He is a union organizer, and has told Gusta a little bit about what to do if men come for him, but she just didn't expect it. At least she is on her way to her grandmother's house, and manages to arrive without other incidents. Her grandmother runs an odd sort of orphanage, so there is plenty of room for Gusta. She settles in to school, gets to know her cousin, and finally gets a much needed pair of eyeglasses. In order to pay for the glasses, she helps a German optometrist who keeps pigeons. As WWII heats up, everyone comes under suspicion, especially the optometrist and Gusta, who is unable to furnish a birth certificate to the school. Gusta plays the French Horn, and is glad to be approached by the high school band, but when her uncle needs an operation to repair damage done by the looms at his work, she sells the instrument to help pay for it. She also writes to a labor organizer in New York who worked with her father, hoping to get some representation for the uncle's case. Long held family secrets emerge, and eventually Gusta is able to make sense of her world.
Good Points
Our 8th graders do a unit on the Holocaust, so I have a wide range of books about different facets of World War II that they read as background preparation. Being of German heritage myself, I am constantly fascinated by books involving Germans in the US during WWII, but aside from A Tiny Piece of Sky and Bunting's Spying on Miss Muller (1995), there aren't that many. The suspicion with which German immigrants, many of whom had been in the country for a very long time, were held has eerie echos in today's treatment of ethnic subgroups, and can teach some important lessons.

This Nesbet's own mother's story, and the love that goes into the details is very evident. I would have adored this one as a child because of all of the details of life in the home front, and of Gusta's adjustment to being with a new family and in a new community. This had a classic feel to it, reminiscent of Sorenson's Miracles on Maple Hill or Gates' Blue Willow.
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