Sunday, April 23, 2023

Enly and the Buskin' Blues

Liu, Jenny. Enly and the Buskin' Blues
February 7, 2023 by Carolrhoda Books 
E ARC Provided by Netgalley

Enly lives with his mother, who works two nursing jobs, and his older brother Spencer in Altamont, a town that is becoming a popular tourist destination. This is driving up the cost of rent for the people who have long lived in the town. Enly would like to attend a summer music camp with his friend Pinky, but his mother cannot pay the $2,800 it would cost to send him, and tells him that he'll have to be content with the City Recreation Camp. Enly has his late father's electronic keyboard, and likes to play music, although he has to hide this interest from his mother. His father was a talented musician, and hearing music makes his mother sad. Enly decides that he will earn the money to go to camp by busking in the thriving tourist area. He and Pinky can't use the keyboard, since it needs to be plugged in, and go to a pawn shop to try to locate an accordian. That's out of his price range, but Enly finds a melodica that doesn't cost him his entire life savings on $68. It's a little rough at first, but with the help of the woman at the senior facility who gives him piano lessons, he gets up to speed. His first morning, he makes less than a dollar, but improves as the day goes on. Eventually, someone gives him a lottery ticket in lieu of cash, and it is a winning one. Since he is not old enough to redeem the ticket, and feels that if his mother cashes it, she will rtake all of the money for Spencer's college, he thinks about asking someone else to cash it. Unfotunately, teens steal the ticket and it takes Pinky and Enly a lot of time and effort to get it back. Once he does, and manages to cash it, his mother does decide that the money could be better spent for Spencer. Will Enly be able to convince her that the music camp is what he really needs?
Strengths: Altamont, which the author's note states is based on Asheville, is a charming place, and I can see why it is becoming a tourist destination. I love that Enly understands that his mother is struggling to make ends meet, and is willing to put in a lot of work in order to afford camp. He and Pinky have a good friendship, and the older woman who teaches him piano is a lot of fun-- I love the selection of 1970s tunes she wants Enly to play. Enly's mother is Chinese American, and his father was white, and there are some cultural connections here that make the story more interesting. There is also a lot of information about social justice issues like regentrification, cost of living, and student loans. 
Weaknesses: Even though Enly is in middle school and is given a lot of freedom to travel around the city by himself, this seemed young. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who want to combine their love of music with gentle adventures and enjoyed books like Woods' Saint Louis Armstrong Beach and Clayton Bird Goes Underground. 

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