Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Latest reviews of Frederico, the Mouse Violinist

Frederico, the Mouse Violinist is an absolutely wonderful children’s picture book. Through a delightful story, the author teaches about the world’s most famous violin maker, Antonio Stradivari, along with various parts of the violin.

But, what has a mouse to do with Stradivari and violins? Well, Calvani cleverly weaved a story that has Frederico living in the home where Stradivari creates his masterpieces.

Loving the violin, the mouse wished he could play. At night while the master slept, Frederico would play among the violins and move the bow across the strings, making sweet sounds. Hearing the music and seeing Frederico’s appreciation for the violin, Stradivari created a special tiny violin for the mouse.

Adding dimension to the story are full page illustrations that are vibrant and fanciful, making Frederico, the Mouse Violinist an engaging, kids-will-love-it picture book. The book also provides information on Stradivari; a glossary for words related to the violin, such as bridge, peg, and scroll; and two activity pages. It is an enjoyable and fun tool that parents and teachers can use to introduce the violin to young children.

I happen to love the sound of the violin, cello, and other stringed instruments. My appreciation for music came from my musical family, as well as school music education programs. In 7th and 8th grades my school offered violin instruction which I happily accepted.

Research from the 1950s through to today, demonstrates the benefits music has for children and even societies. Here are some of the benefits children can reap from music education:

Increases memorization capacity
Improves reasoning capacity and comprehension
Helps children learn and/or improve time management and organizational skills
Helps develop team skills, as well as math skills
Helps improve coordination and concentration
Is a universal language and encourages self-expression

Aside from the above mentioned benefits, you never know what will spark a child’s appreciation and love for music, it could be hearing a song, seeing musicians play, or learning about various instruments and their creation.

–Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, and freelance writer. For writing and marketing information visit KarenCioffi.com, and sign up for her free newsletter: A Writer’s World. You’ll get 2 free e-books on writing and marketing in the process, and two more free e-books just for stopping by.

*****

Do you know any curious, young, music lovers? If so, introduce them to “Frederico, the Mouse Violinist.”

Mayra Calvani combines the curiosity and playfulness of Frederico the mouse with the history and genius of Antonio Stradivari, the famous violin maker, to tell a delightful story of kindness and friendship. Children will learn music vocabulary and the parts of the violin as they follow Frederico’s nightly escapades.

Curious Frederico peeked into the f-hole and looked inside the violin.
“This is the secret, magical place where sound comes out!” he squeaked.

The realistic, yet whimsical, illustrations by K. C. Snider add to the fun. The surprise ending of “Frederico the Mouse Violinist” will fill your heart with “warm fuzzies.” It may just inspire you to follow your dreams.

As a retired teacher, I would recommend this book as a fantastic way to introduce stringed instruments into the classroom. A biography of Stradivari and his accomplishments are included in the back of the book. The activity pages will reinforce the new vocabulary introduced in the book as well.

–Kathy Stemke, Education Tipster

*****

Do you have a budding violinist on your hands? Then he or she will definitely enjoy Frederico, the Mouse Violinist by Mayra Calvani.

Frederico is a little mouse with a big name. He lives in the workshop of a famous violin maker named Antonio Stradivari. During the day, the mouse watches Stradivari make his celebrated violins, but at night, Frederico explores the workshop and its wonders. But it’s the violins that capture Frederico’s attention the most. Frederico longs to play, but since he’s so little and the violin and bow are so big, playing seems an impossible task. However, the determined mouse practices night after night and when he captures the attention of the famous violin maker, the mouse violinist has a mouse-sized present in store for him!

This is an endearing tale that will introduce young readers to the classic string instrument. Not only is the tale inspirational, but it’s educational as well, introducing young virtuosos to the parts of a violin and the famous luthier, Antonio Stradivari. As Frederico learns that if you tighten a peg on a violin, the pitch will be higher and if you loosen it, the pitch will be lower, so will your own virtuoso. And just as Frederico learns that with a little passion and practice, he can play, Frederico will inspire anyone to strum their own tune to this delightful story.

–Lori Calabrese, National Children’s Book Examiner

*****

What an unexpected source of delight this picture book is. This sweet story is about a young mouse who lives in the workshop of the most famous violin maker of all. With tender wording and sensitive illustrations, we see how the master violin maker makes yet someone else’s life change as a result of his musical genius and creativity. This is storytelling at its best.

Every violin student and every violin teacher will treasure this book for its precious story about Frederico, the mouse, as he follows his dreams. Yet behind the tender story is an excellent explanation of the parts of a violin as well as a peek into the life of violin virtuoso Stradivari. The fantastic illustrations add a sense of wonder and delight to the telling, bringing the story to life.

I highly recommend this book for every child whether a violin student or not. Their heartstrings will be tugged and they will yearn to hold a violin in their hands and play it themselves. This is also a great classroom book for teachers to read to students during those young formative years when they are choosing whether or not to play an instrument.

Truly a new classic in picture books!

–Nancy I. Sanders, children’s author

*****

“Frederico, the Mouse Violinist”
Author: Mayra Calvani
Illustrator: K.C. Snider
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/
Hardcover: 978-1-61633-113-9
Paperback: 987-1-61633-114-6
EBook 13: 978-61633-125-2
Copyright 2010
Picture Book: 26 pages

Purchase from Amazon.
Purchase from Guardian Angel Publishing.

Review of Shattered, by Kathi Baron

Shattered
By Kathi Baron
WestSide Books
ISBN: 978-1-934813-08-9
Young Adult

Shattered is the compelling story of a violin prodigy teenaged girl who runs away from home after her father shatters her beloved violin in front of her eyes. Thus, the word ‘shatter’ has a dual meaning in the novel. As Cassie learns to survive in the streets, she gradually learns the reason her father, a former violinist, behaved so explosively. While away, she meets a series of interesting—and sometimes dangerous—characters that indirectly help her grow and become a more mature and understanding human being. Cassie also searches for her elusive grandfather in an effort to learn more about her own father.

Human emotions are brought to vivid life in this first novel by talented new author Kathi Baron. Baron writes from the heart, with passion and sincerity. The prose flows beautifully and the story kept me engrossed all the way till the end. Cassie is a genuine protagonist most teenaged girls will identify with, especially young violinists. One aspect of this book that got my attention is that the descriptions of music and the violin sound very real even though the author isn’t a musician. This is a peeve of mine with violin novels: if the author isn’t familiar with the violin, the writing comes out as fake. But this didn’t happen with Shattered, so I have to congratulate the author on her research.

Shattered is a coming-of-age story. It is also about the healing power of music and the complexity of family relationships. A must read for young violinists, especially girls!

Reviews of Frederico, the Mouse Violinist


“Cute and curious, a little mouse transports us into Antonio Stradivari’s magical workshop. In a sweet playful way, Frederico conveys to us his love for the violin, while he introduces us to this marvelous instrument. Lovely tribute to a genius, whose exceptional instruments have delighted us for 300 years!”—Dorina Raileanu, violin teacher, author of the Dorina Violin Method

***

“This delightful story combines the magical element of an anthropomorphic mouse with a famous historic musical figure. Vocabulary words and interesting facts are woven into the story, making this an educational as well as entertaining read. Illustrator, K.C. Snider’s artwork hits all the high notes as well. Her depictions of the intrepid Frederico bring the story to life with vivid and colorful details. Additional information and activities—including a matching pictures game, glossary, and word search—encourage young readers to explore the book’s content in greater depth. The book is available in paperback, hardcover, and eBook versions.

“Congrats to Ms. Calvani on another endearing children’s tale.”

–Cynthia Reeg, author of Kitty Kerplunking

***

“Calvani weaves her love of music with a beautiful story that is sure to enchant young readers. Whether your child plays musical instruments or not, he will enjoy reading of the little mouse with big dreams. This is such a unique and fun way to bring an appreciation of music to kids. I would love to see music classrooms in all our elementary schools carrying a copy of this one.” —The Book Connection

***

“Frederico’s story is adorable and touching. I’m sure it will entertain many children, teach them a few things about the violin–andwho knows, perhaps even give them the desire to learn to play!”—Francine Engels, Suzuki violin teacher

***

“Frederico is a mouse who watches the famous Stradivari make the finest violins in the world and longs to play one himself. Although a mouse is far too small to play a violin, Frederico keeps trying and one day…. well, I won’t give away the ending.

“The illustrator, K.C. Snyder, combines cute mouse and realistic violin pictures to convey both the fictional story and factual information perfectly.

“This book contains just enough about violins and how they work to be both informative and entertaining for kids. It would make a great gift for children from four to eight years old, especially if they’re interested in music.” –Janet Collins, children’s author

***

“Frederico the Mouse Violinist by Mayra Calvani is a delightful story. I expected a fun read, but instead, found an enjoyable and educational story. Calvani hits that magical note where learning becomes exciting. The mouse is adorable as he discovers every part of the violin and when the famous Stradivari creates a gift just for our favorite furry friend, the reader feels the mouse’s joy. This is a book for the keeper shelf. Frederico the Mouse will become every young violinist’s favorite book and become the inspiration for others to play a violin of their own.” –J.R. Turner, award-winning author of the Extreme Hauntings series.

***

“Frederico the Mouse Violinist, written by Mayra Calvani, is a sweet story about a small mouse who lives in the workshop of the famous violinist, Antonio Stradivari.

“My family and I loves animal tales. I read it to my seven year old son, Noah, and he loved it.The illustrations are beautiful, and this story will entertain and teach children, ages 4-8, about violins for years to come.” –Book Reflections

***

“Author Mayra Calvani has created a story sure to intrigue and educate children and their parents. Included in the text are the names of the parts of the violin in bold-face type. At the end of the story is a glossary of terms, and also some violin-related games for the young reader to play and solve.

“The whimsical and lovely illustrations by award-winning artist K.C. Snider create a mood that supports and enhances this delightful tale. This beautiful book is a must for any child interested in music, and especially for those who are learning a musical instrument. Adults will love it too. There is much to learn for readers of any age. In addition to musical information, implicit in the story are the qualities of passion and perseverance, which are essential to the mastery of any skill. ‘Frederico, the Mouse Violinist’ is highly recommended by this reviewer.” –Suzanne Marion, children’s author and musician

***

Purchase from Guardian Angel Publishing.

The hardcover is on sale for $15.95 (normal retail price $19.95).

Also in paperback and ebook!

Review of The Musician’s Daughter, by Susanne Dunlap

The Musician’s daughter
By Susanne Dunlap
Bloomsbury
2008
978-1599903323
Young adult/historical

Music and violin enthusiasts who love mystery and adventure fiction will relish Dunlap’s latest novel, The Musician’s Daughter.

The story takes place in 18th Century Vienna and begins on Christmas Eve, as 15-year old Theresa Maria’s beloved father is brought to her home, dead. Though Maria is stunned and devastated by the event, her practical nature soon takes charge and she becomes the head of the household. Her mother isn’t able to help, as she is pregnant and dazed by her new widowhood. Theresa’s other family member is her little brother, and they need money soon if he is going to become a luthier’s apprentice, as it had been planned from the beginning. But who would hire a 15-year old viola player, anyway, in a time when musician women were frowned upon? Thus Theresa seeks the help of her father’s dear old friend, composer Franz Joseph Hayden. All along, however, Theresa is keen on investigating her father’s death. Why was her father’s dead body found near a gypsy camp? Why was his violin missing? Her instincts tell her there’s more to it than a vulgar petty crime.

Indeed, as Theresa begins working with Hayden, she begins to suspect a conspiracy, a mystery reaching the high levels of the government. Was his father a simple violinist in the orchestra of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, as she always thought he was, or was his real job more sinister?

Music, mystery, espionage and a light touch of romance will keep readers turning the pages. Dunlap’s prose flows beautifully and I loved Theresa’s strong yet sympathetic character. She’s smart, resourceful and independent in a time where women were expected to behave just the opposite. The gypsy element adds an exotic, sensual flavor to the story. Musicians will particularly enjoy the musical descriptions. The story has an ambitious plot and I think Dunlap did a good job in tidying up all the loose ends. This is a novel to be enjoyed not only by teens but also by adults.

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Review of An Unfinished Score, by Elise Blackwell

An Unfinished Score
By Elise Blackwell
Unbridled Books
ISBN-10: 1936071665
ISBN-13: 978-1936071661
Pub date: April 2010

An Unfinished Score begins with our viola-player protagonist, Suzanne, learning about her lover’s tragic death from a radio announcement as she’s having dinner with her composer husband, Ben. Stunned, she must hide her feelings and act as if nothing is wrong. During the coming weeks, as she goes on with her daily routine, we get past snapshots of her illicit relationship with her lover, the well-known conductor Alex Elling. Suzanne keeps the secret to herself, hiding the truth even from her best friend Petra. Then one day she receives a strange call from Alex’s widow, a call that brings an unexpected twist into Suzanne’s quietly desperate life: the widow claims that Alex has left an unfinished concert for Suzanne… Is this true? Who is to finish the score? Who gets to play the concert? For what reason?

Thus begins the dark relationship between Suzanne and her dead lover’s widow, a relationship that sends Suzanne into inner turmoil and ultimately into public humiliation.

There are many positive things to say about this novel. It is obviously well researched. The world of musicians, composers, orchestras and string quartets come alive. In this respect, the author has done her homework, and classical music fans will enjoy all the references to music and facts about the ins and outs of the musical world. As a norm, it isn’t easy for a non-musician author to write convincingly about musician characters, yet the author has accomplished this with flying colors. The sentences flow beautifully and at times the prose has some great moments. There is a genuine, realistic aspect to the characters and their insipid and unpleasant lives. Also worth noting is Suzanne’s submersion into her fantasy world, the tortuous state of her mind not only because she’s lost Alex, but because she’s now left with nothing but her dull, ordinary existence.

That said, the novel does have its share of flaws. First, there are so many mentions and allusions to music and composers that the story flow drags and gets bogged down with details. Second, in spite of Suzanne’s predicament, she’s not sympathetic enough for the reader to care; in fact, none of the characters in the book are particularly likable. The novel is lacking in this important aspect, thus affecting the reader’s ability to be concerned with the outcome. Third, Alex’s widow comes out as the stereotypical ‘evil ex-wife’ and her conversations with Suzanne often sound stilted.

In spite of this, An Unfinished Score will be of special interest to musicians—especially viola and violin players—and lovers of classical music.

Review of GOOD ENOUGH, by Paula Yoo

Book Description

How to make your Korean parents happy:

1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.
2. Get into HarvardYalePrinceton.
3. Don’t talk to boys.*

Patti’s parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her All-State violin competition and earning less than 2300 on her SATs is simply not good enough.

But Patti’s discovering that there’s more to life than the Ivy League. To start with, there’s Cute Trumpet Guy. He’s funny, he’s talented, and he looks exactly like the lead singer of Patti’s favorite band. Then, of course, there’s her love of the violin. Not to mention cool rock concerts. And anyway, what if Patti doesn’t want to go to HarvardYalePrinceton after all?

Paula Yoo scores big in her hilarious debut novel about an overachiever who longs to fit in and strives to stand out. The pressure is on!

*Boys will distract you from your studies.

My review:

GOOD ENOUGH is about a brilliant Korean-American teenaged girl who has a dilemma: should she attend an Ivy League school and pursue a career in law or medicine–as her strict and ambitious parents want her to do–or should she follow her heart and go for what she loves most, playing the violin. This last choice may not bring her much money or success, but it may bring her joy. So the novel has an universal theme: Money and status doesn’t necessarily define success and happiness.

The story begins when Patti is in her senior year of high school. She’s in the process of applying to universities and preparing for her college entrance exams, all the while trying to keep up with her demanding classes and position as the second violinist in the All-State orchestra. Her parents only add to her stress. Though it’s clear they love her, they push her to the extreme, afraid she won’t ‘make it’–and to them, the only way to ‘make it’ is to be admitted to Harvard, Yale or Princeton.

Then she becomes infatuated with a boy at school. Though she’s enough focused on her work not to be too distracted by him, their friendship sends her parents into utter panic, especially when she escapes Sunday church club to play in his rock band!

Finally Patti has to make a decision: will she live her life or the life her parents want her to live for them? Will she choose happiness over money and status?

I enjoyed reading this young adult novel so much, I finished it in two days. Not only because the protagonist is a violinist, but because of the way the author brings her to life with all her struggles and dilemmas and also because the writing is, put simply, very good.

The writing is clever, witty, yet emotional and sensitive at the same time. I laughed out loud many times. The protagonist comes across as a genuine person. I’m not not surprised, since in my previous interview with the author she mentions that the story is based on her own life growing up. Another great aspect of this book is that all references about music and violin playing are so real. When the author is a violinist herself, that makes all the difference. The prose shines with authenticity.

GOOD ENOUGH is a light, fun read–but it also has the substance of a serious work of fiction. Perhaps this is what impressed me most about this book.

Violinist of all ages will surely enjoy Patti’s story. Highly recommended!

Purchase the book HERE.

Review of Devil’s Trill, by Gerald Elias

Devil’s Trill
By Gerald Elias
Minotaur Books
ISBN: 0312541813
Copyright 2009
Hardcover, 306 words, $25.99
General Fiction

Devil’s Trill, a first-time novel written by violinist, composer and conductor Gerard Elias, is a fascinating story that explores the complex and tumultuous underworld of classical music, priceless violins and virtuoso performers.

Our protagonist, Daniel Jacobus is a blind, old, antisocial and reclusive violinist living in New England. Though he doesn’t perform anymore, his mind is incredibly sharp—something not always appreciated by his students due to his easily ignited and volatile personality.

Our story begins when Jacobus decides to attend a Grimsley Competition concert at Carnegie Hall, where the young winner is granted the opportunity to play with a precious violin—the infamous, three-quarter-size Piccollo Stradivarius. Legend has it that this violin has brought nothing but tragedy and misfortune to all who own it.

But then, after the concert, the violin is found missing and Jacobus becomes the prime suspect.

Together with the help of his bright new student, Yumi Shinagawa, and an old music partner, Jacobus sets out to discover the true thief and prove his innocence.

The story has a simple premise, but one that is brought to a higher level by the music/violin angle. As a late student of the violin, I found Elias’ writing absorbing and mesmerizing, not so much because of the mystery itself, but because of all the details, information and description that the author includes about violins and the lives of violinists.

The author often halts the flow of the story, using his protagonist Jacobus—in order to give us some new information about violins—but it’s actually these intrusions that I loved the most while reading this book. So, if anything, this is a novel that will be thoroughly enjoyed by musicians and fans of violin music.

Elias also puts a lot of effort into the plot and the mystery is well and carefully crafted. There are a lot of minor characters and sometimes keeping up with names was a little confusing, especially at the beginning. Also, I felt that at times the dialogue was unnecessarily long and strayed from the main purpose of the story. But these are just minor imperfections.

Devil’s Trill
is the first book in what is sure to become an interesting new series for mystery and music lovers. I’m already looking forward to reading book II.