Where in the World by Simon French;
Peachtree Publishers: Atlanta, 2003; $14.95
Have you ever not wanted to do something, but been forced to do it anyway? Ari, a boy with an extraordinary gift for music, certainly was in Where in the World when Mr. Lee, his music teacher, tried to make him play the violin at an end-of-the-year recital. As I read I thought about how much like me Ari was. I was nervous the first time I played a piano in front of people I didn't know because I was afraid that I would make a mistake and look foolish. Since I got a lot of encouragement from my parents, grandparents and music teacher I got up the courage to try even though I was still scared. As soon as I began to play I forgot that I even had an audience until they started to applaud at the end. Now I look forward to concerts. A similar situation happened to Ari too. Ari enjoyed playing the violin for fun and for his parents' enjoyment but he didn't want to play at the end-of-the-year recital because he was embarrassed about playing the violin. He was afraid that other children would tease him. One day while his friend, Thomas, was over, Ari's grandfather called on the telephone and asked to hear Ari play the violin. After he was done Thomas asked Ari whether he would play some more songs for him because he thought they sounded beautiful. Ari thought Thomas was teasing him and he put the violin away. Several weeks later Ari's stepfather, Jamie, asked Ari whether he would consider playing the violin for his mother's birthday at the café his parents owned. Ari's mother and Jamie always played music to entertain the customers after dinner. Ari said that he would consider it. He didn't know what to do but finally he made up his mind to play at the café because he loved his mother so much and wanted to make her proud. When he did he discovered that he liked playing in front of other people. He and the audience appreciated each other. That was the turning point where he realized that he could play at the recital without any fears.
The author, Simon French, can make you feel sad, happy, or even disappointed for Ari. One point where I particularly noticed this was when Ari's grandfather died. Even though none of my grandparents have died I can't imagine life without any of them. After his grandfather died Ari said that he never wanted to play a violin again. This was probably due to the fact that his grandfather had taught him to play the violin. His parents told him how much talent he had and encouraged him to develop that talent and not let it go to waste. He realized that his grandfather would want him to continue playing. Mr. Lee was hired to teach Ari.
As I read I realized that it's impossible to go through life always getting your way. Sooner or later someone will make you do something you don't want to. New experiences can be scary but can lead to exciting new opportunities.
I strongly recommend this book. It is impossible not to like Ari and sympathize with the difficult situations that he has to overcome. Whether the reader is a musician or not all of us have to face trying new situations as we grow.