BOOK REVIEW: The Girl Who Heard The Music

book cover
"The Girl Who Heard the Music" by Marni Fogelson with Mahani Teave, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens. Sourcebooks Kids

When’s the last time you watched a Tiny Desk Concert? NPR’s popular in-office show became the Tiny Desk (Home) Concert when the pandemic hit. On June 24, 2021, one artist’s home studio performance came from a remote island in the south Pacific Ocean, two thousand miles west of Chile.

The pianist Mahani Teave (teh-AH-veh) offered not only Handel and Chopin, but also a tour of the music school she helped to build on the island of Rapa Nui, where she grew up.

Long known in the English-speaking world as Easter Island, little Rapa Nui draws thousands of tourists every year to its famous moai—the mysteriously huge ancient stone faces—and to its graceful, remote beaches. But tourists are not always so careful with their trash. And powerful ocean currents bring yet more waves of trash ashore. So garbage began to threaten the beauty of this tiny island, where fewer than 10,000 people live.

It was precisely this trash that became the literal building blocks of the Rapa Nui School for Music and Arts.

pages from The Girl Who Heard the Music

Courtesy of Sourcebooks Kids

The story of this building, and the love that got it built, is at the center of The Girl Who Heard the Music: How One Pianist and 85,000 Bottles and Cans Brought New Hope to an Island.

It adds to a growing genre of children’s books: beautifully-illustrated true stories of inspiring people who might just help save this planet.

Illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens weave color and dreams to carry Mahani’s colorful, dreamy story from Rapa Nui to grand concert stages and back home again.

How did this little girl, in such a remote spot, even know about classical music? A pianist from across the seas had retired to Rapa Nui, bringing her instrument. That instrument sparked Mahani Teave’s dreams of growing up to become a concert pianist.

And so she did. She studied at a prestigious conservatory, won international competitions, and hit number one on the Billboard classical charts with her debut album, Rapa Nui Odyssey. That album had just been released when she recorded NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) concert.

pages from The Girl Who Heard The Music

Courtesy of Sourcebooks Kids

Teave co-authored The Girl Who Heard the Music with Marni Fogelson, an author who collaborated with the cellist Amit Peled on his children’s book, A Cello Named Pablo.

THE GIRL WHO HEARD THE MUSIC: How One Pianist and 85,000 Bottles and Cans Brought New Hope to an Island

Words by Marni Fogelson with Mahani Teave

Pictures by Marta Alvarez Miguens

Release date April 4, 2023

Published by Sourcebooks

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