K-Gr 3-In a moving story thematically reminiscent of Emily Arnold McCully's Mirette on the Highwire (Putnam, 1992), a young boy helps a blind pianist to play again after a long, grief-induced hiatus. On his way home from his violin lesson, Ephram is greeted by Mr. Washington, who encourages him to perform at an upcoming neighborhood concert in the park. The boy's grandmother tells him the story of Flash Fingers Washington, who ``played hot, joyful jazz and cool, soulful blues'' until an accident killed his little girl and left him without his sight. When a brownout leaves the concert in darkness, the two musicians proceed to the stage and perform ``Amazing Grace'' together. The prose has a beautiful cadence, and the contrast of city sounds with the suggestion of gentle violin music is effective. Mr. Washington's heightened sensory perception that compensates for his blindness is subtly established. The muted tones of the pastel chalk art reach to the ends of every page. They blend and balance dark browns and blacks with soft pinks, lavenders and blues, and bright greens and yellows. The sketches are impressionistic, with details only suggested, and the effect is breathtaking. A lovely book.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
"Music speaks best when someone listens." So says Mr. Washington, a blind pianist, who likes to talk to young Ephram, a violinist. It is Mr. Washington who gives Ephram the courage to play his violin at an outdoor concert. When Ephram learns that Mr. Washington is Flash Fingers Washington, a jazz and blues pianist who stopped playing after the accident that killed his daughter and cost him his sight, Ephram tries to persuade the man to join him onstage. Ephram thinks he has failed until the concert is in full swing and he is about to mount the stage. A power outage has caused the audience to become restless, and Ephram is nervous. To help the boy, Mr. Washington heads up to the stage, and together the two play: "The hum of the crowd fades, and in the darkness, the music sings to the stars." The heartwarming text occasionally drips syrup, but this can be forgiven in a book in which there is so much to like. Speidel's chalk drawings are vigorous, capturing a slice of city life yet mirroring the sweetness of the text. Both art and text portray Ephram's relationships in a way that should touch a chord even in preschoolers, though slightly older children will appreciate the book's nuances the most.