Budge Wilson,
A Fiddle for Angus,
illustrated by Susan Tooke
(Tundra, 2001)

There is something very magical about a child's first connection -- not exposure, mind you, but real connection -- with music.

Children's writer Budge Wilson captures the feeling, as well as the frustration children can feel while grappling with techniques beyond their abilities.

A Fiddle for Angus is set in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where music is a way of life for many families. Angus is the youngest child in a home where his older siblings and parents are all talented musicians in one way or another -- Mom plays accordion, Dad plays pennywhistle, brother Tom plays guitar and sister Molly sings.

Angus hums. But he's not content with just humming any more. But what can he do? His perspective changes from glumness to glee when his parents announce it's time to choose an instrument for himself. A village ceilidh (featuring none other than local superstar Natalie MacMaster) convinces Angus to learn the fiddle.

He knows the music in his head and he feels it in his heart. It's bursting to break free through his new instrument -- but, when he draws the bow across the strings, his fiddle makes an awful sound. Some things don't come easy.

A Fiddle for Angus is a simple tale of a child's growth and development, his yearning for something beyond his grasp and his willingness to do what it takes to attain it. It's nice to read so charming a story where the family is loving and supportive without overdoing the saccharine sweetness.

It's brilliant to read a story that touches on the family's love of music that's so typical in Cape Breton. More families, I firmly believe, should make music an integral part of their lives, and children should be exposed to music from an early age to encourage their appreciation.

Susan Tooke provides lush landscapes and expressive characters to illustrate Wilson's tale. The acrylic paintings are highly detailed, indoors and out, and her people are much more realistic in aspect and posture than you'll see in a lot of children's books.

If you love music as much as I do, you'll want to share A Fiddle for Angus with the young people who are important in your life.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 30 November 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.