The Harmonica

The Harmonica


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This powerful story, inspired by the life of a Holocaust survivor, is a testament to the human spirit and the transcendent power of music.

When the Nazis invaded Poland, a family is split apart. The parents are sent to one concentration camp, their son to another. Only his father's gift, a harmonica, keeps the boy's hopes alive and, miraculously, ensures his survival. When an officer discovers his talent, he makes the boy play each night. Through music the boy invokes his parents and brings comfort to the other prisoners, lifting their spirits if only for a moment at time.

Ron Mazellan's luminous artwork depicts the bleakness of the time, while letting the beauty that hope can bring through the darkness shine.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781570914898
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication date: 07/01/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 32
Sales rank: 88,385
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.17(d)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

Tony Johnston is the author of over 100 books for children, including THE CAT WITH SEVEN NAMES and THE BARN OWLS. She lives in California.

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The Harmonica 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A semi-finalists in the 2005 Independent Publisher Book Awards! A young Polish boy, living with his parents in a house filled with love and music, yearns for a piano so he can play the music of his favorite composer, Schubert. But the family is poor, and it is the gift of a harmonica that lets the boy make music - until the Nazis find them. Torn from his parents, the boy plays his harmonica in his concentration camp to keep from forgetting what once was and from losing all hope. When the camp commandant hears of his musical prowess, the boy is forced to play for the Nazi. Ashamed of receiving scraps of bread from the officer while others starve, he eventually hears heartfelt thanks from another prisoner. He realizes that, 'Each night, like the very stars, my notes had reached other prisoners.' From then on, when ordered to play, the boy does so with all his heart. There are few happy tales from the Holocaust. But there are many stories of man's indomitable spirit, something that transcends the horrors of that time and place. This is another such tale, based on the true story of a Holocaust survivor. And it expresses the uplifting power of music, which no walls can contain. Luminous illustrations help make this book a masterpiece. Those who enjoy The Harmonica may also enjoy Ruby Lee the Bumble Bee: A Bee's Bit of Wisdom. In it, a young girl perseveres in the face of a challenge, and grows as a result - an award finalist for the Benjamin Franklin Award which also recognizes excellence in independent publishing.
brandaman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very realistically written. Delt with death and loss of family.
caltstatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young Jewish boy lives with his family in Poland during the time of Hitler. They are poor but love to hear music, especially that of a man named, Schubert. The boy's father gives him a harmonica and he learns to play Schubert. The Nazis find the family and split them up in different concentration camps. The boy is treated poorly by German soldiers, but one soldier finds him one night and orders him to play Schubert on his harmonica. The boy feels badly for doing this for the soldier until he realizes he is also blessing the other prisoners.This would be an excellent discussion book for students studying WWII. The students would be able to see the war from the perspective of someone their own age. This book could be used to begin research about the lives of Jews during this terrible period of history. Student could also look up Schubert and see where he was from and how he affected the lives of those who heard his music.
MSblast on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story is about a boy who holds onto hope by playing his harmonica after being separated from his family and placed in a concentration camp. "Often, to keep from losing hope, I touched the harmonica, cold inside my pocket. Sometimes I played it to keep from losing hope." He is ordered to play for a Nazis commandant. This book reveals the complexity of human conscience when merciless people can still recognize beautiful things.TEACHER TIP: The story line is vague about explaining what the Holocaust was, so you may want to provide a lot of background knowledge.
kmacneill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was written in beautiful language. It almost brought me to tears. This would be a great book to read aloud and use expression while reading it. I think it would be a great way to educate students about the Holocaust from a different perspective then historical fact books. I love that this book was written to keep one man's story going. Its based on a true story.
meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A lovely picture book with haunting illustrations. It's not graphic, but because of the subject matter, I'm not sure it would be good for young children, and older children probably would not want to read a picture book. So I'm not sure what the target audience would be. But it is a good depiction of one boy's journey through the Holocaust.
awiltenburg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a well written book about a boy's journey. He had a wonderful family until the Nazis arrived at his home and he became imprisoned and kept away from his family. His harmonica kept him personally attached to the memories of his family but also caught the attention of the commander who had him play daily. Although his harmonica playing kept him alive and fed an extra bread he was ashamed, that is until he was told his playing gave hope to the other prisoners in earshot. The book just ended, like I fell off a cliff!! The author provided extra details in a back page story so we know he survived the holocaust. The book was engrossing and really draws you in to the story. I would use this book to discuss the Holocaust, surviving troubles, strength, having hope, turning misfortune and despair into hope. I would use this book for grades 3-8 b/c of the strong emotions and war topics.
btivis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Tony Johnston wrote The Harmonica, he wanted children to be educated on the the Holocaust in a way that they would understand it. He based the book on a real story of a boy and his parents and their love of music. When his dad gives him a harmonica, he learns to play Shubert for his family to enjoy. After the Nazi troops take his family, he is separated from them and placed in a concentration camp. He is sad because he doesn't know if his family is dead or alive, so he plays his harmonica to think about when times were happy. When the commandant learns of his talent, he makes him play for him and gives him bread in return. This makes the boy feel guilty since other prisoners are starving to death. However, the prisoners thank him for the beautiful music he gives them each night.This book brought tears to my eyes. Anytime a disasterous situation is seen through a child's eyes it is harder to deal with. The fact that it is based on a true story makes it even more heart-wrenching.I would read this book when introducing children to the Holocaust. It could also be used when discussing respect for other people and their religions.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This thoughtful book evoked empathy for the main character but failed to truly engage you in his everyday misery. Towards the middle of the book the author suceeds in having you identify with the character but it is not a true relationship with him as it would have been if the reader had been engaged from the beginning. The book deals with an important issue in history but this get diluted in the stilted language. The book's topic and feelings are slightly older than the suggested age range for the book.