Enly is a racially-mixed preteen boy living in a poor neighborhood, whose widowed
mother is too preoccupied with raising money for his older brother’s college tuition
to help with Enly’s passion for music, much less raise the large the sum of money
needed for music camp. So he turns to busking-performing for donations on the city
streets, using an instrument he barely knows how to play. While busking is a time
honored way for musicians to raise funds, it is not without its foibles. Enly finds himself
at risk of getting caught up in a dangerous situation well as being at odds with his
mother and his brother.
The situation, plot, setting and characters are all realistic and relatable. The story arrives
at a happy conclusion, appropriate to its audience.
Enly's best friend is going to a music camp this summer. He desperately wants to go but when he sees the price, he has to figure out how. Enly ends up buskin his music in an attempt to save money. This creates some hairy and funny situations.
My first thought after reading this book was that it would be great for our One Book One School for a year in the near future. The book focuses on family, community and problem solving. This is a great book that could bring a school together.
This book is perfect for music lovers and those who love to solve problems. I would feel comfortable putting this book into the hands of any child who fits the lexile of this book.
Many thanks to Net Galley and to Lerner Publishing Group for providing me with an ARC of this book.
Enly lives with his mother, who works two nursing jobs, and his older brother Spencer in Altamont, a town that is becoming a popular tourist destination. This is driving up the cost of rent for the people who have long lived in the town. Enly would like to attend a summer music camp with his friend Pinky, but his mother cannot pay the $2,800 it would cost to send him, and tells him that he'll have to be content with the City Recreation Camp. Enly has his late father's electronic keyboard, and likes to play music, although he has to hide this interest from his mother. His father was a talented musician, and hearing music makes his mother sad. Enly decides that he will earn the money to go to camp by busking in the thriving tourist area. He and Pinky can't use the keyboard, since it needs to be plugged in, and go to a pawn shop to try to locate an accordian. That's out of his price range, but Enly finds a melodica that doesn't cost him his entire life savings on $68. It's a little rough at first, but with the help of the woman at the senior facility who gives him piano lessons, he gets up to speed. His first morning, he makes less than a dollar, but improves as the day goes on. Eventually, someone gives him a lottery ticket in lieu of cash, and it is a winning one. Since he is not old enough to redeem the ticket, and feels that if his mother cashes it, she will rtake all of the money for Spencer's college, he thinks about asking someone else to cash it. Unfotunately, teens steal the ticket and it takes Pinky and Enly a lot of time and effort to get it back. Once he does, and manages to cash it, his mother does decide that the money could be better spent for Spencer. Will Enly be able to convince her that the music camp is what he really needs?
Strengths: Altamont, which the author's note states is based on Asheville, is a charming place, and I can see why it is becoming a tourist destination. I love that Enly understands that his mother is struggling to make ends meet, and is willing to put in a lot of work in order to afford camp. He and Pinky have a good friendship, and the older woman who teaches him piano is a lot of fun-- I love the selection of 1970s tunes she wants Enly to play. Enly's mother is Chinese American, and his father was white, and there are some cultural connections here that make the story more interesting. There is also a lot of information about social justice issues like regentrification, cost of living, and student loans.
Weaknesses: Even though Enly is in middle school and is given a lot of freedom to travel around the city by himself, this seemed young.
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who want to combine their love of music with gentle adventures and enjoyed books like Woods' Saint Louis Armstrong Beach and Clayton Bird Goes Underground.
Thank you NetGalley and Lerner Publishing Group Carolrhoda Books ® for accepting my request to read and review Enly and the Buskin' Blues
Author: Jennie Liu
Genre: Children's Fiction -- Middle Grade -- OwnVoices
This is probably one of two or three middle grade books that I have read.
I liked the illustrations. I went back and forth with the story. Enly did things I would have never considered, thus wouldn't do. That is where I have trouble. Spending a large sum of money in a pawn shop? The dream of camp, being told no, and told the cost should have ended it. And, it did for me.
There are lessons to be learned; however they require a reasonable adult spending quality time teaching. I wouldn't blindly pick this up for kid who loves music (He is why I requested this.).
I recieved a free eARC of this book. Thank you for the opportunity.
Enly loves making music, and it's something that connects him with his dead father. When his best friend tells him about a 2 week music camp, he really, really wants to go, and armed with a pawnshop Melodica and help from his friend, his elderly piano teacher, and some of the community buskers, he tries to earn the money to go.
This story explores the struggles faced by many people when gentrification comes into a community, and how things which are no big deal to some families are a big problem for others, Enly's efforts at problem solving and true joy in playing comes through, I highly recommend this book for young musicians-or anyone else.
You’ll be cheering on Enly as he decides he will have to earn the money for summer band camp by busking. Mom can’t afford to send him as she’s saving for brother Spencer’s college fund. Someone drops a lottery ticket into his box as a tip while busking, and when Enly goes to cash it in it’s stolen. After a series of mishaps, he’s able to get it back, but mom wants the money for Spencer. Does this mean band camp is out?
Enly just wants to earn money, and he figures with all all the tourists, and the way the area has been gentrified, that there are lots of people that will pay him if he busked. But the piano keyboard of his late father musician needs electricity to run, and that won't work. He wants to save money for band camp, because he wants to do what his father did.
It is a cute story of learning how to be a busker, and what happens as one, and the ups and downs.
The secondary story, lying underneith the story of Enly, is the story of how a small town can be discovered and gentrified so much that the original people that made it home, that added to its charm, can no longer afford to live there. This is shown in the way the senior housing, where Enly gets his piano lessons, that his teacher can't afford to both color her hair, and eat well.
Good book to teach children, in a subtle way, that changes in a town can mean for the marginalized. But it is also a good story to show that you can work hard to get to what you want, with a little help from friends and family.
<em> Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.</em>
As someone who grew up playing in band and going to band camp.. I appreciated this premise! Would recommend for kids at the chapter book level.