Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me
David Gutnick, Author
Mathilde Cinq-Mars, Illustrator
Second Story Press, Fiction, Apr. 18, 2018
Suitable for Ages:5-8
Themes: Music, Piano teacher, Intergenerational relationships, Friendship, Loss
Opening: Not long after my family arrived from China, I went to the park with my father, whom I call Baba. Lots of people went there to play…it is where I met someone I will always remember.
Synopsis: Shortly after a girl and her family arrive from China, she and her father (Baba) meet an older gentleman in a park. They learn that Mr. Mergler has taught piano lessons to hundreds of students for over 50 years. Baba proudly shares that his daughter plays the piano at their church. Mr. Mergler asks her to sing her favorite song. He closes his eyes as he listens. He hears music in a way that most of us can’t. When she finishes, Mr. Mergler recognizes the girl’s talent and offers to give her piano lessons. Their bond grows as she studies with him. Her fingers fly over the ivory keys and she becomes lost in the magic of her music. After many months of study, the girl learns that Mr. Mergler is ill. Mr. Mergler sends her a letter and a special gift.
Why I like this book:
This is a heartwarming multicultural and intergenerational story about a girl and her elderly music teacher. The author beautifully captures the affection and bond between teacher and student — and all of the hundreds of students who lives he’s touched. His walls are adorned with their photographs.
This story is inspired by the life of the wonderful and generous musician Daniel Mergler, who loved to teach children. It is a story that will inspire many classically trained young musicians. It is also a tribute to a quiet and kind man who was adored by his students. His story brought tears to my eyes as I reminisced about many of my favorite piano teachers as a child, teen and young adult. I am sure many adults reading this story with their children will recall their memories of favorite teachers.
Mathilde Cinq-Mars soft and whimsical illustrations carry their own melody with musical symbols woven into the delicate composition. They are exquisite and compliment the text.
Resources: Make sure you read the material about the lives of Daniel Mergler and Beethoven at the end of the story. They give insight into Mr. Mergler and are a good way to address music with children. Music can be made with many items. If you don’t have a piano, give children a harmonica, kazoo, bells, pots and pans to play with to encourage rhythm and fun.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.