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Redwing: by Holly Bennett – New in our Young Adult Accordion Library

April 22, 2014
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Redwing Book cover, eyes peering out over a fire

The cover of Holly Bennett‘s young adult novel Redwing¹ caught my eye (images of eyes do that, effective cover) but I knew I had to share it when I read this dramatic set-up,

The plague has taken Rowan’s family.  Alone and grief-stricken, he lives and travels in his family’s old caravan, eking out a living by playing his button box in small towns.

Perhaps the author, who’s Canadian, has been listening to my co-host Rowan on our Accordion Noir radio show?

The book follows Rowan’s namesake as he recovers from family tragedy² by traveling and busking to make a living.  Bennett has written a series of books in a similar setting inspired by Irish mythology, but this story stands on its own without reading any of the others.  It did have me wondering about the possibly anachronistic appearance of an accordion in a vaguely pre-industrial setting (it’s not entirely clear what technology is available).  Spending all my time researching accordion history I’m sensitive to these things.  I tried not to be distracted by what seemed like modern Irish traditional music³ grafted onto an adventure story.  If this is another world entirely, those Irish really got around, eh?  Studying the emigration of the Irish, it isn’t entirely unreasonable, if there had been spaceships, they’d probably be out there.

Ms. Bennett’s book is an entertaining addition to the growing catalogue of accordion-related literature for children.  It is a niche market we are happy to see people exploit, and I can recommend this one to accordionists of all ages.

A few other examples of Young Adult Accordion Lit:

Sights: Susanna Vance

Victoria Miles’s Magnifico! (This episode of Accordion Noir Radio also lists a ton of kids’ accordion books)

Daniel Handler hasn’t had any accordions in his books to my knowledge, but he plays it at his readings, and in a rock band!

¹ “Redwing” or “Red Wing” is of course the name of a tune written in 1907 which became the basis for Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid.”

² Have I mentioned my idea for a book about the history of violent death and trauma suffered by the adult guardians in children’s literature?  Something has to set these kids up to go adventuring by themselves, but if my kids really want to go, they don’t have to kill me.  I’d probably let them out the door with brief struggle and maybe a few bruises.  “Write if you have any adventures,” would be better for me than, “Remember my tragic death.”

³ “Modern tradition” is an oxymoron, but things like bodhrán drums and guitars are fairly recent additions to Irish trad, and even accordions were bitterly contested within living memory.  So from a historian’s perspective it feels a little strange to see them imported into other contexts. But it’s still kinda cool.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. unwashedmass permalink
    April 22, 2014 12:58 pm

    Don’t forget The Book Thief in your YA accordion lit list!

  2. April 23, 2014 2:42 pm

    Kate Thompson’s The New Policeman is another young adult novel with main characters playing Irish trad accordion (or fiddle). Good ones.

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