February 26, 2018

Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me

Written by David Gutnick
Illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars
Second Story Press
978-1-77260-059-9
32 pp.
Ages 7-10
Mach 2018

If this was June 21, Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me would be a valuable tome for International Music Day.  If it was December or March, we could acknowledge Beethoven’s birthday or death with this picture book.  But in February, this wonderful story about a music teacher and his student celebrates embracing one’s passion, here a love of music.
From Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me 
by David Gutnick 
illus. by Mathilde Cinq-Mars
This is the story, inspired by true events, of a young girl and her parents who have just immigrated to Canada from China.  While the child swings in the park, her father chats with an elderly man whom he introduces to his daughter as Mr. Daniel Mergler, a man who has taught piano to hundreds of children over more than fifty years.  Though the family obviously does not have money for extras such as piano lessons, Mr. Mergler sees something in the young girl who had taught herself sufficiently well to play for their church. 
Something tells me she understands the magic that music can bring to her life.  If she does, that is all the payment I will need.
From Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me 
by David Gutnick 
illus. by Mathilde Cinq-Mars
At Mr. Mergler’s studio, the child begins her lessons with the elderly man, while a bust of the stern-looking Beethoven looks down from his perch upon the piano.  Though she finds reading music and the lessons difficult at first, she progresses well and is the recipient of many gold stars from her teacher who shares with her the magic of the music. 

But her time with Mr. Mergler is cut short after "twenty-six magical lessons" when the man falls ill and pens a moving letter to his “star pupil” and bequeaths her his Beethoven bust. 

Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me has all the elements to inspire.  There is music, and passion, and determination and effort and empathy.  In less than a year, one man found a seed of music in a young girl and nurtured it into a skilled talent, demonstrating the ability of music to make time disappear and touch the heart, even making the cranky Beethoven happy. Author David Gutnick takes this story from a documentary he produced for CBC's The Sunday Edition called “Beethoven’s Bust” (listen to it here http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2501123338) based on the dying piano teacher’s need to speak about the best student he’d ever had.  Accompanied by Quebec artist Mathilde Cinq-Mars’s soft and harmonious illustrations of gentle pencil colours and line, Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me is a complete package of kindness and empathy: in actions, in the words and in the art.  Save it for International Piano Day (March 29) or maybe World Kindness Day (November 3). Or any day a little magic is needed.
From Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me 
by David Gutnick 
illus. by Mathilde Cinq-Mars

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