Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Do You Think of Harmonica Music?

The Harmonica by Tony Johnson is a powerful book. Based on Henryk Rosmaryn life in the Dyhrenfurth concentration camp. It is the story of a boy who survives because he can play Schubert on his harmonica. I later learned that Franz Schubert composed music specifically for the harmonica.  

When I read the book I could not quite associate what he played with the harmonica music I remembered.  Then a cousin sent a video clip of Buddy Greene playing the harmonica at Carnegie Hall.  I was overwhelmed. Listening to Buddy Greene is a moving experience.

The illustrations are done by Ron Mazellan.  They capture the darkness of the boy's experience.  Yet as you look at the illustrations there is a luminous quality about the art work.  

This book garnered lots of discussion when I read it to my 6th graders last year.  It is not an easy read but lends itself to providing initial background knowledge of the Holocaust.  I believe these stories need to be told and discussed.

In 1999 I was deployed for a short tour in Germany and went to to see the Dachau concentration camp.  Since then I have worked to find literature that is appropriate for our 5th & 6th grade students.  Genocide still takes place - I believe we must work to stop the practice of genocide in all its disguises.     

As I look at my stepfathers harmonica I am touched that such an instrument can produce such exquisite music. 



  1. Interesting ... I never heard of this book before. I remember hearing a jazz harmonica player (Toots Thielemans) and thinking, wow ... that is not the harmonica I know.
    Thanks for the recommendation on a book.

  2. The Hero and the Holocaust: the story of Janusz Korczak and his children by David Adler is another powerful picture book. The illustrations are incredible.

  3. Thanks for the review. I've had many students study the Holocaust through the years; you're right-it isn't easy to support them in the learning. I'm appreciative that there are those authors who continue to tell the story of that awful time. The video added to your telling too.

  4. I'd seen that clip before and it's pretty amazing. When I was writing a short story once, I got the idea to make one of the characters a harmonica player. A friend, a local doctor, was one and I went over to look at and photograph his harmonica collection. He played a few for me--it is astounding the music that can come rollicking out of that little silver gridded bar!

    I'll have to look into this book--you always have such great ideas for books to read. Thanks for your comments on my blog--I've enjoyed slicing with you.

    Elizabeth E.

  5. This sounds like an amazing story. I love how you've shared facts and made connections to your grandfather. Beautifully written...I'll be looking to add this book to my library.

  6. Exciting post. I want to give a big thanks to you for such a post. I just collect my Suzuki Harmonica from at PIJ. Its cool and also great.



Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment.