Becoming Felix

Nancy Hope Wilson, Author
Nancy Hope Wilson, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $16 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-30664-9
Reviewed on: 10/02/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
Prebound-Other - 184 pages - 978-0-606-13185-8
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-380-72945-6
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-07322-6
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JJ has a gift for the clarinet, but he would gladly give up music and the school jazz band to save the failing family dairy farm. Although this sometimes melancholy story begins with a few lumpy passages, it is redeemed by a strong central story and solid characters. JJ's family has been in the dairy business for generations, yet all around them other small farms are going bankrupt. JJ's father takes a construction job to support the farm, leaving the bulk of the work to JJ's resentful older brother, Ray, and JJ's mother. Because he is only 12, JJ can't take on Ray's responsibilities however much he wants to. Meanwhile, his grandmother and music teacher encourage him to follow his musical talent, even at cost to the farm. An unsatisfying, and ultimately unneccessary, side plot involves JJ and his friend Steven, who can't understand each other because Steven's not a ""farm kid"" and JJ isn't Jewish. Wilson's (The Reason for Janey) descriptions of JJ's clarinet playing aren't altogether convincing, at least not in comparison with her careful and insightful depiction of the dairy farm and JJ's love for it. In balance, however, poignant passages as the family loses their herd and way of life make this a moving tale. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
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