Today’s Book is The Sound Of Freedom by Kathy Kacer.
Title: The Sound of Freedom
Author: Kathy Kacer
Category: Children’s Fiction , History
Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Annick Press (March 13, 2018)
Anna and her family have only one hope left to escape certain doom. It’s 1936 and life is becoming dangerous for the Jews of Krakow. As incidents of violence and persecution increase day by day, Anna begs her father to leave Poland, but he insists it’s impossible. How could he give up his position as an acclaimed clarinetist in the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra? When Anna and her father barely escape from a group of violent thugs, it becomes clear that the family must leave. But how? There seems to be only one possibility. Bronislaw Huberman, a world-renowned violinist, is auditioning Jewish musicians for a new orchestra in Palestine. If accepted, they and their families will receive exit visas. Anna and her grandmother boldly write to Huberman asking him to give Anna’s father an audition, but will that be enough to save them?
This poignant story is based on real events in pre-war Poland and Palestine. After saving 700 Jews and their families, Huberman went on to establish what later became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Against an ominous background of the impending Holocaust in Europe and the first Arab-Israeli war, The Sound of Freedom still manages to remind the reader of the goodness in the world.
My first thoughts as I completed reading this book: that it is uplifting and heartwarming. It is filled with moments of tension, of joy, of exultation, of relief, of heart pounding fear, and more. I could picture myself in Anna’s place easily – thanks to Kathy Kacer’s descriptive, emotionally-charged yet not overpoweringly so, and a-keep-reading narrative.
This book is a fictional novel based on true historical events. I had no idea of the story behind it until I picked up this book and I am so glad now I did. It is always wonderful to learn about real life heroes, like Bronislaw Huberman, who helped almost a thousand Jews escape Poland, using music as the saving force.
The story is told from the viewpoint of young Anna, who is leading a blissful life with her dad and her grandmother, and enjoying her days with her best friend. But things are changing in 1936 Poland. Soon, Anna witnesses the changes and the dangers of Nazism and the anti-Semitic sentiments around her. She is convinced that her family needs to leave Poland as it is not safe for them anymore while her dad does not believe so.
Soon, other events force them to make a move, and Anna’s dad successfully auditions for the orchestra. They begin their journey from Krakow to Palestine, but what waits for them next?
The book is written with the right balance of emotion, portraying the harsh realities of 1936 Poland while keeping it appropriate for the target audience.
Well, just some of them really!
- On life and death, from a child’s perspective: ‘Baba said that her body had turned off, like turning off a lamp. But that did not make sense to Anna. You could turn a lamp back on. ‘ – Anna, on hearing her grandmother after her mom died due to illness within a few weeks of falling sick
- On music: ‘Her notes hung in the air like stars in the sky. Sometimes…… it was like listening to sunshine.‘ – Anna, about the clarinet playing of one of her friends (also her father’s music student)
- On music again: ‘Sometimes the music swelled …… a storm blowing through the city. ……notes… as soft and as light as butterflies floating on air. ……as playful as a litter of kittens. That was the best thing about going to a concert. It was the listening‘ – Anna, as she listened to a concert rehearsal.
- On the definition of home: ‘What is a home? Isn’t it a place where you feel safe?‘ – Baba ponders this thought. And, dear reader of my blog, don’t you think it sad that this is such a relevant question to ask even today across the world?
- On family: ‘Food was her grandmother’s favorite remedy. And while it would not take the pain away, it would remind her how lucky she was to live in this loving family.’ – Anna, about her family, her Baba.
Facts Discovered and Beautiful Truths Reaffirmed:
(from the book and from the Author’s Note at the end):
- That there are always good people in the world – people who are willing to go above and beyond to save humanity – like Bronislaw Huberman.
- Huberman lost his violin twice. And found twice as well. The second time, it was discovered years after his death. It was later bought by Joshua Bell, the world famous violinist. You can find out about a wonderful story about Joshua Bell here.
- The wonderful Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra owes its existence to the events of this book
- And I am watching the Orchestra of Exiles based on Huberman’s amazing orchestra with these musicians from Europe soon. It is available on Prime Video!
The Sound Of Freedom is a gentle way to introduce children to the beginnings of the Holocaust, and Kacer weaves historical fact and fiction seamlessly, making it just-so-right for the target audience. It is an excellent addition to classrooms (and home libraries too) and provides a lot of room for discussion questions.
While Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl will remain my most favorite read about this harsh part of history followed by The Book Thief, this book is going up on my list of ‘please-read-this-book’ list too.
Reading Level: 9 years and up
Reread Level: 4.5/5
Disclaimer: Thank You #NetGalley for the DRC of this book. The opinions are my own.
Question to You, Dear Reader:
What is home for you? (See in Memorable Lines from The Sound Of Freedom above); OR How does music help you? What does listening to music do for you?
Writing this post as a series for the Ultimate Blog Challenge and Write 31 Days. 31 Days, 31 Books! This is for Day Twenty Three(catching up is what I am doing)