Friday, November 20, 2015

Oscar Lives Next Door

Oscar Lives Next Door ~ A story inspired by Oscar Peterson's Childhood
by Bonnie Farmer; illus. by Marie Lafrance
32 pages; ages 4-8
Owlkids Books, 2015

theme: friendship; history; music

Opening: Daddy is a Pullman porter on the railway. He is dog-tired by the time he gets off the train at Windsor Station. "It's good to be home," he says softly as he lays his head on his pillow. But he doesn't fall asleep, because Oscar lives next door.

Oscar root-a-toot toots on his trumpet and daddy says, "We're moving!" But Millie and her family never do - and it's a good thing, because Oscar is her best friend. They do everything together, until Oscar gets sick. So sick that when he finally recovers his lungs aren't strong enough to blow on his trumpet. But he finds another way to make music and becomes a jazz legend.

What I like about this book: The author makes it clear in her notes that this is a work of fiction inspired by the story of jazz great Oscar Peterson. Millie is fictitious, and so are some of the antics she and Oscar get into. But the story of Oscars battle with tuberculosis and his music are all based on fact. Not only that but she presents the flavor of the period - the early 1900s - and the neighborhood of Montreal so well that you feel like you're there.

I love the way she uses sounds: bing bang bops and pitter patters and rolling thunder and neighing like horses...  and I like the feel of the illustrations. They're warm, welcoming, filled with life.

Beyond the book: Oscar Peterson died in 2007, but his music lives on. You can head out for a virtual "night on the town" -  Here's a recording from a 1964 performance in Denmark . Want to hear more? then head over here.

Jam Session for little ones: Join an online "jam session" game where you can add instruments to the mix.

Make your own instruments. Line up some bottles with different amounts of water in them and blow across the top, turn a bucket upside down and start drumming, or make your own didgeridoo. Or slide some jingle bells onto a ribbon, tie it around your ankle, and make music while you dance.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from the publisher.


  1. Digging the online jam session game - thanks for a great resource to complement what looks like another must-have for my ever-growing book shelves!

  2. What a wonderful story -- I love that it is filled with so much life -- as big as Oscar and his story. I didn't know he had TB.

  3. SO GORGEOUS! Adding it to my list right now. Thanks.

  4. Sounds like a winner. Thank you for the suggestion :)

  5. You know, Sue, it's a good thing the library lets me take out so many books...every one of this week's PPBF picks so far is a winner.
    I love this story...and can't wait to flip through what looks like are great illustrations.

  6. I, too, am glad my library doesn't have a limit on how many books I can check out. I'm adding this one to my long list.

  7. I LOVE Lafrance's style! Must get a hold of this!

  8. Great first page! I look forward to reading the rest of Oscar Lives Next Door. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Oscar Peterson isn't a name I was familiar with--so I obviously need this one!

  10. I am fascinated the PB that are fiction, but with links to a famous person! So interesting, and thanks for all the great links Sue!