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The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo

Previously included in a collection of autobiographical writings and short stories (Singing for Mrs Pettigrew: A Storymaker’s Journey), the The Mozart Question was later published separately as an edition lavishly illustrated by Michael Foreman’s hazy watercolours. The former Children’s Laureate, Morpurgo, tells a simple tale about an important subject…

A young reporter gets her big break when she has to go to Venice to interview a famous violinist.  Her boss cautions her not to ask the ‘Mozart question’.  When she gets to meet the man, she is so overawed that she blunders in ‘Well, I know I can’t ask you the Mozart question,” but recovers to ask, “I wonder if you’d mind telling me how you got started. I mean, what made you pick up a violin and play that first time.”

Paolo, the famously touchy violinist decides to open up. He tells the story of how as a young boy he discovered what he thought was his father’s violin hidden away, and how he meets an old violinist in the streets of Venice who teaches him how to play it. Old Benjamin also tells him about how he’d had to play his violin to live in the Nazi death camps, and Paolo finds out why his father doesn’t play any more …

I found this to be a very moving and poignant short story and the illustrations enhance it wonderfully – with a palette of blues predominating, there’s always sadness in the air of Foreman’s Venice.  Although written in simple language, and beautifully illustrated, I do not think the story is suitable for under-tens who would need more background to understand and appreciate it, but I do hope any child with an interest in history and WWII would find it rewarding to read.  As an adult, I enjoyed it very much indeed.  (9/10) I bought this book.

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