Welcome to my tour stop for Chronicles from Chateau Moines by Evelyne Holingue. This is a middle grade historical fiction. The tour runs March 2-13 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. Check out the tour page for the full schedule.
About the Book:
September 1970: Scott’s mother has recently died and his father gets the crazy idea to move his family from California to Normandy. Now Scott has to learn to live without his mom while adjusting to France. In his seventh grade class there is only Ibrahim who comes from another country. Scott doesn’t even want to play his guitar anymore. Why does his father think that life will be better so far from home?
Scott has no idea that his arrival is also a challenge to Sylvie. While her best friend is excited to have an American boy at school, Sylvie cannot say one word to Scott. She can’t even write good songs in her notebook anymore. Why is life so different since Scott moved to Château Moines?
Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protest era and told from the perspectives of twelve-year old Scott and Sylvie, this is a story about loss and friendship, music and peace, and also about secrets.
Although this is a work of fiction, the cultural, social, and historical background of the early 1970s in France and the United States inspired the writing. At the end of the book the reader will find a list of the songs, the names of singers, and bands mentioned through the novel as well as some elements about fashion, immigration in France, the Vietnam War, and other cultural, social, and historical facts relevant to the period of time.
Scott and Sylvie Play Music Together for the First Time (118-119)
I’ve practiced before she arrived, but when I play “Let It Be” I’m so nervous that my fingers slip and miss a string. Sylvie’s eyes glow under the flames of the candles. Her smile is so encouraging that, song after song, I relax.
“Sing with me?” I ask.
“In English?” She sounds panicked.
“It’s not like my French is perfect. Mom always ...”
Saying “Mom” aloud crowds my heart with too many memories. I jump to my feet so they stop haunting me.
“If you want to talk about your maman ...” Sylvie says in a soft voice.
I flip open my music book and turn the pages as fast as I can. I’m upset that Sylvie guessed something about Mom, since I haven’t told anyone. At the same time, a strange relief washes over me. I keep the book open and strum my guitar.
“I’ll sing with you,” Sylvie says.
Her voice is very soft and reminds me of the French singers Mom used to play back home. It should make me sad, but for a weird reason I feel better.
“I thought you didn’t sing,” I say. She smiles, but doesn’t say anything. “I can’t feel my fingers anymore.” I rub my calluses against my jeans.
“I also have something for you,” Sylvie says. Her voice is so quiet that I think I’ve dreamed it, but she gets up and pulls a notebook from her back pocket. She leafs through it and picks a page filled with tight handwriting. Her hair falls across her face and the smell of lemon transports me home. Mom always picked a lemon from the backyard that she squeezed, and she added the juice to our shampoos.
“You play the guitar,” Sylvie says. “I write songs.” Her green eyes look straight into mine. “I’ve never showed them to anyone. In fact, nobody knows that I write songs.” Her hand shakes as she flattens the page. “Can you read my music and accompany me?” I’d like to tell her that I was scared to death when I played earlier, but I keep my mouth shut and instead get my guitar. I’m amazed that Sylvie can bring so many nuances to her voice. Thanks to Mom, I understand enough of the French words to get the general meaning and I can concentrate on the notes. As I listen to Sylvie, the coolest thing happens. I stop paying attention to every word and instead focus on the music they make. No more barriers of language. Outside, an owl hoots and the stream whispers. The night is a warm coat that smells of leaves and wood. I wish words and music could hover above us forever. When we are finished, we don’t talk at all, but it’s okay. The silence feels as snug as the poncho on my shoulders.
About the Author:
I was born and raised in Normandy, France, where I spent most of my childhood reading. My first published piece of writing was a poem about a man spending Christmas behind bars. I was eleven years old and wasn’t paid for my work, but I was hooked.I studied French Literature at the Université de Caen and at the Sorbonne in Paris and worked in a publishing house before moving to California, following my husband.It was a challenging time in my life as I was leaving my own career, my family, my friends and my beloved Paris behind. But how could I say no to the dreams of the man I love?Readers enjoy escaping the familiar for the unknown. Being a foreigner is discovering the unknown day after day, not only for the time of a book. However, since most things in life come with a silver lining, I credit this move for giving me the opportunity to write. Through my words, I share my affection for my native and adoptive countries that I love equally.
Two (2) kindle copies of Chronicles from Chateau Moines (INT)
Ends March 18th
This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.