THE CELLIST'S NOTEBOOK
by Kittie Lambton
Clink Street Publishing
Middle Grade Historical
ages 9 and up
The Cellist's Notebook is a charming, life-affirming tale of discovery surrounding an old family mystery. A young girl's curiosity, her love of a little melody and the beauty of a cello evokes memories long forgotten.
Set in the present day, ten-year-old Emily Peters is spending the summer with her Nana Rose, a retired piano teacher, in rural Cumbria whilst Emily’s sister Lizzie travels to Paris for a French exchange. When Emily notices an old photograph of a cellist dating back to the Second World War and discovers cellos and an old music manuscript in the attic, her Nana tells of the touching and compelling story of her brother Leni, a linguist, cellist and music composer, whose disappearance was marked ‘ultimate fate unknown’ following World War II.
Emily’s love of the unfinished cello melody, found in her Great Uncle Leni’s music notebook, evokes memories for her Nana Rose and Emily returns to Norfolk with a passion to play the cello and a determination to learn the long-lost melody. A series of events unfold that change the life of Emily and her family forever.
Emily is ten years old and is taking her Nana up on a promise—to learn to play the cello. Nana, however, isn't exactly sure why she promised Emily such a thing, since she herself has played since her brother disappeared during WWII. Still, a promise is a promise. And this one results in much more than the beginning of Emily's love for music.
I was surprised at how emotional and satisfying this tale became in such a short number of pages. Emily comes across with tons of personality right away. Her determination is inspiring, and she still remains loving and sweet. But then, her Nana is just as wonderful. The relationship between the two is warming and slides right in with their shared love for music.
But this story is about so much more than a young girl's growing love for the cello. There's a touch of mystery as Emily learns about Nana's brother, who disappeared during WWII. While the author switches scenes using flashbacks, it's never confusing and weaves nicely into the tale. But then, only important scenes are focused on, and that's why this story stays short. The entire thing could have used a little more editing, but that hardly hurt the tale. I did find myself smiling and even sighing once or twice.
This is a lovely, short, and meaningful read. The author doesn't sink into the tale with the usual novel style, but rather lets the characters develop just enough to make one care about them, feeds in only necessary backstory, and glides through Emily's summer quickly, making sure only important highlights are given more attention. I especially see homeschoolers enjoying this one.