The Cello of Mr. O

Cutler, Jane

Published by Dutton Juvenile, 1999
ISBN 10: 0525461191 / ISBN 13: 9780525461197
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Synopsis: In a ravaged, war-torn city, where heat must come from burning furniture and even cherished books, where even the relief truck is destroyed by enemy fire, how can people find hope? In this powerfully evocative picture book, one little girl discovers the answer.

Mr. O is a crotchety old man. The heroine of this story and her friends like to tease him--they run in the halls, making noise, and they pop paper bags outside his door. But every Wednesday afternoon, when the relief truck used to bring flour and other staples, Mr. O marches into the square, sits down, and begins to play his cello. It's not until the Wednesday when a bomb again hits the square that the little girl realizes what Mr. O has been trying to teach them all: that music--and courage--can sustain the spirit just as bread sustains the body.

Jane Cutler has created a poignant tribute to the unnamed city of Sarajevo in a story that celebrates the kinship between generations. Greg Couch's timeless illustrations, abstract in form yet piercingly beautiful in the emotions they capture, portray at once the tragedy of war and the power of human dignity.

From Publishers Weekly: "At night, from my window, I can see the white trails of tracer fire and the orange flash of mortars in the sky. I pretend I am watching shooting stars and meteors," says the nameless girl protagonist of Cutler's (The Song of the Molimo) moving and, sadly, timely story of the healing power of music in wartime. With winter approaching, food scarce and her father off fighting, the high point of the girl's week is Wednesday, when the relief truck arrives and the community gathers. Most days, she sits with the other children under the stairs until their high energy levels send them running through the halls, where they taunt an unsociable musician named Mr. O. As the girl stands outside his apartment, she remembers how her father described the craftsmanship of Mr. O's cello and the command performances of the cellist's youth. When a rocket destroys the relief truck, Mr. O surprises the children by courageously playing music in the middle of the square and lifting their spirits. Couch's (Wild Child, reviewed above) soft-focus watercolors in burnished shades of gold, copper and fiery red have a dreamlike quality that effectively contrast with the unsentimental narration. He mixes realistic scenes of the war-torn landscape with a surreal sense of war's intrusion on this child's life. While more details about the mysterious Mr. O might have made his change of heart more believable, Cutler's focus on turning calamity on its head will likely have an uplifting effect on readers young and old. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Cello of Mr. O
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: 1999
Book Condition: Good
Edition: 1st.

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