Friday, March 24, 2023

Today's read... Enly and the Buskin' Blues by Jennie Liu

Today's read is about a boy, who plays the melodica on the street for tips. And that definitely caught my interest. Firstly, a melodica is a wonderful instrument, which is so often forgotten...and I love learning about lesser-known things. Secondly, my older daughter was always looking for ways to make some extra change and often set up lemonade stands, juice stops, sold rocks from vacations, and whatever else she could think up. Let's just say that she kept our neighbors busy.
Anyway, let's dive in!

by Jennie Liu
Carolrhoda Books
Middle Grade Contemporary
208 pages
ages 9 - 13

Twelve-year-old Enly Wu Lewis is determined to go to band camp and follow in the footsteps of his musician father, who died years ago. But his mom, a single parent working two jobs, is saving every penny for his older brother's college tuition. So Enly sets out to earn the money for camp on his own, by busking with an obscure instrument he can only kind of play. When someone drops a winning scratch-off lottery ticket into his tip box, Enly thinks it's the answer to his problems--but he'll have to overcome teenage thieves and his own family if he wants to achieve his dreams.



This read has several refreshing twists, while promising a fun adventure with a few life lessons along the way.

Enly is determined to follow in his father's footsteps and become a talented pianist. To reach these dreams, he's sure he needs to attend a summer music camp, but his mother is already struggling financially to keep the family running after his father's death, making the $2800 fee impossible to round up. In hopes of making Enly and his brother's futures brighter, every extra penny goes toward Enly's brother's college savings. But Enly isn't about to give up. He uses the little money he has saved to purchase a melodica, a lesser-known instrument, and go busking. But playing on the streets for tips isn't as easy as it seems, especially when a tipped lottery ticket gets involved.

My musician heart warmed at a story about a boy, who's ready to do anything to reach his piano dreams, but even non-music-orientated readers will connect with the dream of joining a band and becoming a popular musician. Enly's determination is inspiring, especially since he takes realistic steps to reach his goal. Not only does it show that effort is needed to achieve goals, but also opens up to ideas of financial adventures such as lemonade stands and pet rock sales—entrepreneur hopes and dreams.

The characters are lovely. Not only does Enly come across as a normal kid with normal dreams and hopes, but even his friends and family have interesting personalities and goals of their own. The edition of the elderly 'friends' offered a nice twist, while opening up the door to awareness and still keeping things very fun and light. His mother's struggles show how frustrating parents can be but also demonstrates that there can be more behind their actions than first appears. But then, the family dynamics in general are well done.

There is also an exciting, unexpected adventure, which gives this tale an extra boost of tension and action. There are bad decisions, consequences, hope, desperation, and more as Enly has to figure out how to solve a difficult problem...and words of wisdom thrown in at the right time, show that there is also an easier way to go about things. So there are quite a few messages woven into the fun. 

And here she is...

Jennie Liu is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Having been brought up with an ear to two cultures, she has been fascinated with the attitudes, social policies and changes in China each times she visits. Follow her on Twitter @starnesliu and IG @jennieliuliu.

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