The musical legacy of one man reaches through the dark days of the Holocaust to a young survivor in this fable about the power of music and memory. In a Polish town “hung on the edge of despair” lives the Wren, a poor old man with a beautiful voice and a sole possession, his beloved hurdy-gurdy. When the Nazis force the people to give up their musical instruments, the Wren defies the order by playing one last song before being dragged away to his demise. The poetic words of the song and the raised voices of the townspeople bring a brief moment of catharsis in the midst of so much anguish. That night the Sparrow, the Wren’s student sneaks through the village and recovers the instrument, hiding it behind the boiler of her apartment building. Years later, after the end of the war, a boy discovers the hurdy-gurdy with a letter from the Wren tucked inside. “Finder, if you are not the Sparrow, know that once a young girl risked her life for an old man who lived…in the key of despair, but the octave of truth.” As the young boy grows into a man, he keeps the instrument safe throughout his travels, vowing to leave his own letter in it “…so that no one will ever forget.” The affecting text is filled with both pathos and hope, befitting the author’s status as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate (2011- 2013). Somber watercolor and pencil illustrations convey the historical darkness of the time, yet are punctuated with the Sparrow’s red hair and the rich tones of the instruments that invoke the hope of better days to come. A poetic tribute to the resilience and continuity of the Jewish people following the nightmare of the Holocaust. Includes an afterword and archival photo describing the role of music in the Lodz ghetto and concentration camps. Recommended for ages 8 – 11.
The Wren and the Sparrow
Teri Markson has been a children’s librarian for over 18 years. She is currently the acting senior librarian at the Valley Plaza Branch Library in North Hollywood, CA.
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