Publisher; Owlkids Books
Ages: 4 to 8
Long before Oscar Peterson became a virtuoso jazz pianist, he was a boy who loved to play the trumpet. When a bout of 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.