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Children's Fiction Music

Oscar Lives Next Door

A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson's Childhood

by (author) Bonnie Farmer

illustrated by Marie Lafrance

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Mar 2016
Music, Canada, General
Recommended Age
4 to 8
Recommended Grade
k to 4
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


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.

About the authors

Bonnie Farmer is an elementary school teacher, a children’s author, and a playwright living in Montreal, Quebec. Bonnie spent a part of her early childhood in Little Burgundy, the same neighborhood where Oscar Peterson grew up. She remembers its sights and sounds vividly and gets pangs of nostalgia each time she revisits familiar streets. Bonnie’s two most recent plays, Gollywog and Big Feelin’ have been work shopped at Black Theatre Workshop and Playwright’s Workshop of Montreal, respectively.

Bonnie Farmer's profile page


Marie Lafrance est née à Québec. Après des études en graphisme et un long séjour aux États-Unis, elle décide de se consacrer à l'illustration. Ses œuvres lui ont valu des nominations au prix du Gouverneur général et elle a remporté le Prix Ruth et Sylvia Schwartz de littérature jeunesse pour le livre Une poule pour Izzy Pippik qu'elle a illustré. Marie vit à Montréal.


MARIE LAFRANCE has spent her whole life drawing pictures, at first to keep from biting her nails, then for magazines, newspapers, posters, billboards and board games. Now she illustrates picture books, including The Lady with the Books, Oscar Lives Next Door, and Bunny the Brave War Horse. Her book A Hen for Izzy Pippik won the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award. Marie lives in Montreal, Quebec.


Marie Lafrance's profile page


  • Winner, Winner of the Quebec Writers' Federation Award for children's literature

Editorial Reviews

"The right tone of reality and fiction...Little Burgundy comes alive."

CanLit for Little Canadians

"An engaging look at the man who put Montreal and Little Burgundy on the map of jazz history."

School Library Journal

"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."

Quill & Quire

"Fresh, radiant, and skilfully exquisite picture book...unforgettable...highly recommended."

Canadian Review of Materials

"Farmer hits the high notes...Lafrance's stylized, digitally colored compositions present the community's buildings and activities in a serenely nostalgic way."

Kirkus Reviews

"This book encourages resilience in children and the pursuit of their dreams in spite of the obstacles they may encounter."

Canadian Children's Book News

"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 National Post

"Captivating illustrations and wonderfully descriptive text."


"A visual as well as a literary success."

Montreal Review of Books

"A wonderful inspiring tribute... An excellent guided reading and discussion resource for young students."

Resource Links

Librarian Reviews

Oscar Lives Next Door: A story inspired by Oscar Peterson’s childhood

A story based on the famous jazz musician Oscar Peterson's childhood in the Montreal neighbourhood Little Burgundy.

This is a strong example of biographical text told in picture book form. Oscar Peterson’s childhood is a story of triumph over adversity, and provides a good read-aloud source to teach perseverance while students are learning about character education. It is also a book that brings the music curriculum to life by demonstrating the way Oscar’s passion for playing an instrument led to success, and at the same time providing a strong Afro Canadian role model.

Also available: The Potato King by Christoph Niemann

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.

Other titles by Bonnie Farmer

Other titles by Marie Lafrance

The Invitation

by (author) Stacey May Fowles
illustrated by Marie Lafrance

trésor d'Oma, Le

by (author) Monique Polak
illustrated by Marie Lafrance

The Brass Charm

by (author) Monique Polak
illustrated by Marie Lafrance

Curieux comme un petit chat !

Franz Schubert

by (author) Ana Gerhard
illustrated by Marie Lafrance
other primary creator I. Musici de Montréal & Benoit Brière

Nous voilà tout oreilles !

Niccolo Paganini

by (author) Ana Gerhard
illustrated by Marie Lafrance
other primary creator I. Musici de Montréal & Benoit Brière

Un vrai coup de maître !

Franz Joseph Haydn

illustrated by Marie Lafrance
other primary creator Benoit Brière & I. Musici de Montréal
by (author) Ana Gerhard

We Are All Ears!

Niccolo Paganini

illustrated by Marie Lafrance
other primary creator I. Musici de Montréal & Colm Feore
by (author) Ana Gerhard

Gemma and the Giant Girl

by (author) Sara O'Leary
illustrated by Marie Lafrance

A Brilliant Plan!

Joseph Haydn

illustrated by Marie Lafrance
by (author) Ana Gerhard
other primary creator Colm Feore & I. Musici de Montréal

C'est mon piano, monsieur!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

other primary creator Benoit Brière & I. Musici de Montréal
illustrated by Marie Lafrance
by (author) Ana Gerhard