SEVEN DAYS OF POSSIBILITIES: One Teacher, 24 Kids and the Music That Changed Their Lives Forever

Anemona Hartocollis, Author . Public Affairs $24 (314p) ISBN 978-1-58648-196-4

At first glance—and especially because of the book's glib subtitle—it might seem Hartocollis is mining familiar territory. But this vividly detailed story from the New York Times education reporter isn't just another Hollywood-ready story of a teacher who brings music to inner-city kids. Hartocollis recounts the childhood and education of Johanna Grussner, a Finnish jazz singer who muscles her way through the bureaucracy of New York City's public school system to form a gospel choir at an underprivileged Bronx school. As a result, the heroes of this book—including a custodian who livens up the school grounds with tiger lilies from his own backyard—aren't just admirable, but real. And unlike most teacher-as-motivator success stories, this tale doesn't end with an inspiring concert uniting the community. This performance is just the beginning, the springboard for Grussner's dream of shepherding the eager students to her idyllic hometown in rural Finland. Even the somewhat reluctant and aloof school principal comes around in the end. His toast to the formerly unruly pupils during their Finnish adventure sums up the book's mood: "We all had the trip of a lifetime. This trip, although it's to her home, was never about Johanna. It was about her choir." What unfolds next is truly the stuff of Disney movies, but in Hartocollis's capable and careful hands it becomes a parable for social change. The author writes objectively and doesn't sentimentalize her account, resulting in a credible and challenging work. B&w photo insert not seen by PW . Agent, Liza Dawson. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-283-30476-4
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