Jacob and the Mandolin Adventure

Second Story. Mar. 2021. 160p. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781772601626.
Gr 3-7–This historical novel takes readers to 1920s Poland before leading to an adventure in a new land. Thirteen-year old Jacob is a young white boy living in an orphanage for Jewish children. Amid hardship, playing his mandolin provides one source of peace and joy. When a mysterious American man promises the children opportunity in Canada, the group makes the harsh and uncertain trek while questioning whether everything is as it seems. Hunger, bullying, harsh words of persecution, and moments of grief all make the book a resonant prompt for discussing many issues that students face today. The journey itself, a centerpiece in the story, is told as one of hope, but also new dangers. In spite of the difficulties Jacob faces, the presence of music and art are a balm for him and others. As a former teacher-librarian, Dublin knows her audience and it shows; her use of description and dialogue to build character and setting is sure to engage readers. In Jacob, readers encounter a figure whose life is far from easy, but whose passion helps him transcend his circumstances. He is an orphan and an outsider in some regards, but his desire to pursue his dream will be relatable to many.
VERDICT A complex journey that may conjure connections to Jerry Spinelli’s Milkweed and John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Jacob is a character readers ought to meet.

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