A Con­cert in the Sand

Tami Shem-Tov and Rachel­la Sand­bank; Avi Ofer, illus.
  • Review
By – March 25, 2017

This warm, deli­cious, slim vol­ume is bona fide his­tor­i­cal fic­tion about the first con­cert by the orches­tra that will become the Israel Phil­har­mon­ic. Humor laced mobile illus­tra­tions sup­port the sto­ry of a mys­te­ri­ous walk that Uri, a young boy, takes with his grand­moth­er in Tel Aviv in Decem­ber 1936. The unfold­ing plot keeps young­sters engaged in the mys­tery sur­round­ing the out­ing: where is grand­ma going? What are those men car­ry­ing in those fun­ny shaped cas­es? As the grand­son walks, he spies and seeks clues. We learn that grand­ma is a Ger­man-Jew­ish refugee from Nazism, safe but home­sick in Pales­tine. She knows music and some of the musi­cians, espe­cial­ly the man who cre­at­ed this orches­tra, vio­lin­ist Bro­nis­law Huber­man. He saved the lives of 70 musi­cians by tak­ing them to play out­side Europe. (The pic­ture book itself does not delve into this sad Holo­caust rea­son to start the orches­tra, but the end note skims it.) Uri meets Huber­man and gains a new, pride­ful view of his grand­par­ent. Told in the first per­son by Uri, the pic­ture book reveals not only his walk and the solu­tion to his ques­tions about the strangers, but his great rela­tion­ship with his grand­moth­er, the denizens of devel­op­ing Tel Aviv and the emo­tion­al pow­er of music; yes a teary eyed end­ing. By the end of the walk, the two are lead­ing a parade of fish­er­man, con­struc­tion work­ers, sales peo­ple, shop­pers and side­walk strollers into the audi­to­ri­um. Arturo Toscani­ni is the con­duc­tor who brings the music from Uri’s ears to his heart: not to be missed by read­ers ages 4 – 9.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

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