Long before Oscar Peterson became a virtuoso jazz pianist, he was a boy who loved to play the trumpet. When childhood tuberculosis weakened his lungs, Oscar could no longer play his beloved instrument. He took up piano and the rest is history: Oscar went on to become an international jazz piano sensation.
Oscar Lives Next Door is a fictional story inspired by these facts. The book imagines a next-door neighbor for Oscar named Millie, who gets into mischief with him but also appreciates his talents: Oscar hears music in everything, and Millie calls him a magician for the way he can coax melodies from his trumpet. Millie writes to Oscar during his long stay in the hospital for tuberculosis, and she encourages his earliest notes on the piano.
Set in Oscar’s true childhood neighborhood of St-Henri — now known as Little Burgundy — the book provides a wonderful sense of this 1930s neighborhood where most of Montreal’s Black working class population lived. Detailed digital illustrations make the community’s culture and music almost tangible.
The book concludes with a page of informational text about the author’s own connection to Little Burgundy and a short biography of the jazz legend.
"An engaging look at the man who put Montreal and Little Burgundy on the map of jazz history."
"This book encourages resilience in children and the pursuit of their dreams in spite of the obstacles they may encounter."
"A visual as well as a literary success."
"Fresh, radiant, and skilfully illustrated...an exquisite picture book...unforgettable...highly recommended."
"Easygoing...satisfying...Oscar Lives Next Door has none of the pretentiousness that often plagues books attempting to teach children about art or "important" cultural figures."
"Captivating illustrations and wonderfully descriptive text."
"A wonderful inspiring tribute... An excellent guided reading and discussion resource for young students."
"Farmer hits the high notes...Lafrance's stylized, digitally colored compositions present the community's buildings and activities in a serenely nostalgic way."
"The best way to introduce children to the works of jazz pianist Oscar Peterson—well, it'd probably be by playing them the music itself. The second best way would be to read them Bonnie Farmer's picture book, Oscar Lives Next Door... Real biographical details are blended in with imagined moments... the book brings the neighbourhood to life, making it shimmer and hum on the page."
"The right tone of reality and fiction...Little Burgundy comes alive."