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FIDDLE FEVER by Sharon Arms Doucet

FIDDLE FEVER

By Sharon Arms Doucet

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 2000
ISBN: 0-618-04324-1
Publisher: Clarion

Inspired by the story of the late Creole fiddler Canray Fontenot, Doucet ( Why Lapin’s Ears Are Long, 1997) tells of 14-year-old Felix LeBlanc and his passion for music. Told in the first person and set in 1914 in the Cajun community of rural Louisiana, the novel exudes the flavor of the time and place and offers up a smattering of French, defined in a helpful glossary. When Felix hears his Uncle Adolphe play his fiddle, his soul is transported and he determines to become a fiddler himself. Felix’s mother, however, forbids her son to take up the instrument or even to utter the word fiddle at home. Readers will feel that the lady doth protest too much though her vehemence is plausible: she fears that her son, like her brother Adolphe, will become a vagabond and reject family and responsibility. The close-knit Cajuns scorn the idea of going against one’s family, but Felix knows in his heart that he must play music. In secret he painstakingly builds a fiddle out of a wooden cigar box and a length of cypress wood. After teaching himself to play, Felix disguises himself in costume and mask and joins a Mardi Gras band, but his secret is revealed when he falls off the parade wagon. He suffers broken bones and worse: his fiddle is burned and he faces the continued repudiation of his mother. In an ending that is not entirely believable, he meets up with Uncle Adolphe while both are running away from their constraining lives. Adolphe urges Felix to go back and gives the boy his own precious fiddle. Upon his return, Felix discovers that his mother has undergone a complete change of heart, having realized that her opposition has caused him to take drastic measures. All is forgiven, and she even encourages Felix to play the fiddle, a family heirloom. This will be a hard sell—too bad because it’s well written and Felix is an admirable, fully realized character. Many readers won’t relate to the unfamiliar setting or the passion for Cajun fiddling; this remains to be enjoyed by those who would follow their own passion no matter the context. (author’s note, glossary, lyrics) (Fiction. 10-14)