Sunday, May 05, 2024

The Color of Sound

Isler, Emily Barth. The Color of Sound
March 5, 2024 by Carolrhoda
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rosie is taking a break from playing the violin; it's been 67 days since she started her "strike". In retaliation, her mother has taken away all of her electronics and has decided that if Rosie isn't going to the elite music camp that has accepted her for the summer, she will spend six weeks with her grandparents in Connecticut. Grandma Florence is in the end stages of Alzheimers, and Grandpa Jack has a housekeeper, Tamar, and dog, Vienna, to keep him company. Rosie is allowed to wander around the property, which includes a small cabin. One day, she enters the cabin only to find a girl her age there who says her name is Shoshanna, or Shann, which is Rosie's mother's name. Sure enough, when asked, Shanna says it is 1994! Trying to make sense of how she could be speaking to her mother, Rosie goes to the public library to do research, and becomes entranced by an improv drama camp there run by Mia. We learn a bit more about Rosie's violin career; she was a true prodigy who had practices, classes on music theory, and public performances, but the pressure her mother put on her to play the violin cost her her best friend, Julianne. Rosie also has synesthia, so not only hears music but experiences it as color, and this is a lot to process. While Rosie learns more about Shanna's life, and tries to prevent things like the death of her dog Stimpy, she learns secrets about her family's life. She learns more from Grandpa Jack, with whom she swims every morning. Her grandmother's mother was a violin player named Dahlia who perished in the Holocaust, causing Florence to be both intrigued by music and worried about it, so that Shanna was never allowed to play an instrument. Rosie plays for Florence, but only when her mother is out of the house. When her surgeon father visits for the weekend and sees her swimming, he immediately wants her to pursue the sport, and is angry that she chooses to throw away her talents. There is also drama when some of the older improv theater participants come to the house to swim. In the end, Rosie grows to understand more about her mother's life and her heritage, and tries to give the younger version of Shanna information that will change the way she raises Rosie. Will it be enough to help form a more supportive relationship with her mother? 
Strengths: I'm sure that there were many Jewish families after the war who supressed information about what happened to family members during the Holocaust; it was a different time, and people didn't want everyone to know their private business. Rosie's mother's reaction to this is realistic, and the effect it has on how she is raising Rosie makes sense. It was good to see Rosie developing a good relationship with her grandfather, and I especially liked how the dog, Vienna, played into things. The time travel happens without explanation, but who doesn't secretly want to be able to meet a parent when they were a child? 
Weaknesses: I wish there had been more information about Rosie's synesthesia, especially since her mother also seems to experience the world this way. I don't know anything about the condition, and imagine that young readers might not, either.  Since this is a fantasy book, they might think that this is not a real condition, so some explanation would have helped. 
What I really think: This is s good choice for readers who like time travel books or characters who play violin and also face life challenges, like Day's We Still Belong, Langley's The Order of Things, Chow's Miracle,  Glaser's A Duet for Home or especially Ross' Something For Lottie, with its Jewish representation. 

Ms. Yingling

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