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Author: Farmer, Bonnie
Illustrator: Lafrance, Marie
Publisher: Owl Kids
Year Published: 2015
ISBN: 9781771471046
Grades: Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6

Oscar Lives Next Door: A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhood

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The trumpet is Oscar’s favourite instrument.  “There’s a genie inside,” whispers Oscar. “Listen.”
Inspired by well-known jazz musician, Oscar Peterson’s childhood, this book, part fiction/part non-fiction, explores the real challenges Oscar overcame as a child. The author  of this book, who grew up in St-Henri (later called Little Burgundy) in Montreal, Canada, is also where Oscar grew up years beforehand. Raised in a musical family, Oscar played trumpet, until he developed tuberculosis (TB) which affected his lungs.(This disease affected his whole family, resulting in the later death of his brother Fred). During his convalescence away from his family in a children’s hospital, he developed selective mutism and stopped talking. A small gift helped him find his voice again. In this story, Oscar’s neighbour, Millie and Oscar correspond through letters while he was recovering.This story is sure to inspire anyone who’s had a dream and had it dashed, and found a new dream.

As a result of his lung problems, Oscar turned towards playing the piano; classical, boogie-woogie and jazz.  He played the piano with other great jazz legends.  Oscar received the Order of Canada in 1972 and has been immortalized as a Canadian icon on the Canadian stamp. This picture-book style biographical look at a Canadian musical legend is suitable for grades 2-6.  This story of personal perseverance and success is a good resource for Character Education: Perseverance and Alberta’s health curriculum: Life Roles and Career Development. Music teachers will enjoy introducing jazz music and the life of this Canadian jazz musician to students.

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