Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Oscar Lives Next Door: A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhood

Farmer, Bonnie (Author)
Lafrance, Marie (Illustrator)
Owlkids 2015. 32 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9781771471046 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, setting

Award

Québec Writers’ Federation Award – 2016

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Based on the real-life events of jazz pianist Oscar Peterson’s childhood, this fictional account is seen through the eyes of his young neighbour. “Millie” and Oscar play in the streets of 1930s Little Burgundy in Montréal. They sprint and lumber like elephants and play tricks on the Reverend. And Millie listens to Oscar play the trumpet. Her father complains that “Oscar bings, bangs and bops too much.” But Millie falls asleep to the lullaby of his melodies.

When Oscar contracts tuberculosis, Millie writes him encouraging letters in the hospital; when he finally returns home, his lungs are too weak to play his beloved horn, so he focuses on piano.

Text is rich and nuanced with poetic language and believable, fleshed-out dialogue. Told in the first person, from Millie’s point of view, it is an excellent example of voice. “I strain to listen, but only Oscar can hear every musical note of the howling choo chooooos as Daddy’s train leaves the station and clangs along the canal.”

The pen and ink drawings are digitally coloured with collage embellishments that capture the old Montréal neighbourhood with a sense of nostalgia. Buildings and skies sweep the pages, and different changes of light and seasons add to the feeling of history and time passing. The art has a naïve quality and is rendered with a great deal of joy, bringing the characters skilfully to life.

Back material for this tale of passion and resilience includes a short biography and an author’s note.

  •  Listen to some teacher-selected pieces of music featuring Oscar Peterson and learn a little bit about this famous Canadian musician.
  •  

    Browse parts of the book, looking for details in the illustrations that establish the setting as being Montréal, Québec.

  •  Research Oscar Peterson. Make connections between the fictional and factual elements of the story. Annotate the picture book with facts written on sticky notes.
  •  

    With a partner, draw character maps for Millie and Oscar. Compare how the two friends are similar or different.

  •  

    Draw a timeline of Peterson’s story. Research his career as a musician and add to your timeline.

  •  

    Explore how practice and perseverance are depicted in the book. Discuss how these values are precious. Use pictures or drawings to indicate how you include practice and perseverance in your own life.

  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Jazz Day (R. Orgill) (Background Knowledge)