Author: Barbara Nichol
Illustrator: Scott Cameron
Ten-year-old Christoph’s father recently passed away, and to help make ends meet, her family is renting out their upstairs to boarders. And the boarder who’s just moved in is something else! He’s noisy and antisocial and does all kinds of strange things. Christoph is convinced that Mr. Beethoven is mad, and he writes his uncle Karl to complain of the madman’s presence in his home. As time goes by though, the tone of Christoph’s letters changes . . . to the extent that he eventually writes of Mr. Beethoven with understanding and, perhaps, even admiration.
I’ve enjoyed Beethoven Lives Upstairs ever since I was fairly young. Nearly the entire book (it’s fairly short) is written as a series of letters between young Christoph and his uncle Karl, who is away studying music Salzburg. The tone is quite pleasant; it’s an easy story to read, and I think the correspondence style suits the story excellently. The artwork fits perfectly as well: warm and rich, lifelike, yet somewhat blurred in places, like the borderline between the classical and the romantic in Beethoven’s own compositions. It’s wonderful to see the insight through a child’s eyes of how Beethoven must have seemed in his later years, deaf and desperately composing while unable to even hear the music he creates, famous yet proud and distant. I enjoy the mixture of this somewhat-biographical information (although told as experiential story) with other events in Christoph’s life such as fighting with his younger twin sisters and finding a dog. I would definitely recommend Beethoven Lives Upstairs both as great biographical fiction and as just a fun story.