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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Banjo of Destiny, written by Cary Fagan. Groundwood, 2011. $9.95 ages 8 and up

"It was strange how playing
the banjo made Jeremiah feel
different. He was no longer just
a kid who didn't have many
friends. He was the kid who
could build a musical instrument
and learn to play it.

He was a musician."

Jeremiah has what we all think we want and! His newly rich parents insist that their son, who is a bit of a nerd, be schooled in etiquette, dancing and piano. They are sure it will make him a well-rounded member of society. Of all the things he must do, Jeremiah hates piano lessons the most.

One day, while on a cross country run with Luella and the rest of the students from The Fernwood Academy, the two take a shortcut past a seemingly abandoned farmhouse. In passing it they hear:

"Music. It seemed to be coming from the front of the farmhouse.
It wasn't like anything Jeremiah had ever heard before, a captivating rhythm of plucked notes and sudden strums, melody and rhythm."

It is a banjo and he falls in love with its sound, deciding then and there that he wants to know how to play it. His parents will not hear of it. That leaves Jeremiah to figure out how to make one himself. He prints off plans from the internet and sets about finding the materials needed...a cookie tin and a broken wooden chair. A DVD is all he needs to learn the rudimentary rules of banjo pickin'.

As happens when you are doing something you truly love, Jeremiah works extremely hard to become an accomplished player. With the encouragement of Louella he starts playing for others, and then finally for a recital at school. He learns much about himself along the way and helps his parents learn what can happen when they allow their children to follow personal paths. 
Jeremiah is a great character, willing to work hard to accomplish his goals, while also able to laugh at himself. Louella is a staunch and supportive friend who encourages him to follow those dreams and let the chips fall where they may. His tale is warm and cheerful and would be welcomed by anyone with a musical bent, a love of the banjo or a willingness to step out on a limb to achieve personal success.

Now, if this post has piqued your interest in the banjo...and you think you would like to know more, Cary Fagan adds a 'note from the author' that should answer all your questions and point you in just the right direction. Go on, give it a try!

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