Further Reading is a new feature on The Booklist Reader, designed to provide readers’ advisory for today’s headlines.
Jackie Evancho, the platinum-selling singer who, at the age of 10, won America’s Got Talent for her preternaturally precise renditions of Callas and Puccini, will perform at the presidential inauguration. Although her appearance was announced last month, Evancho’s all over the headlines this week because of a tweet:
Jackie Evancho’s album sales have skyrocketed after announcing her Inauguration performance.Some people just don’t understand the “Movement”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
Since then, some outlets have questioned Trump’s claim, while others have supported it. But the most interesting piece of writing about to emerge about Evancho’s continued relevance appeared in MTV News. In an essay about popular uses of classical music, Doreen St. Félix takes the long view on what it means when contemporary world leaders valorize Old World culture.
To be sure, Evancho’s position as a classical child star is a fascinating and strange one—and one that has intrigued many fiction writers. Below, three great novels about singing children or singers and children, linked to their excerpted Booklist reviews.
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
Luscious world-class soprano Roxane Coss is entertaining an international assortment of diplomats and businesspersons at the Peruvian vice president’s house when terrorists take it. Everybody loves her, eventually—a Russian diplomat, the Japanese tycoon who paid for her performance, one of the teenage hostage-takers, and so on. The medium for all professions of admiration and love is polylingual Gen Watanabe, who takes a shine to a child-soldier terrorist, Carmen, who comes to share the fate of an operatic earlier bearer of her name.
The Time of Our Singing, by Richard Powers
When Jewish physicist David Strom falls in love with African American Delia Daley, they embark on a grand experiment, raising three children to love music and transcend race. The children all sing beautifully, but the oldest boy, Jonah, is a genuine prodigy (his brother, Joseph, who narrates the novel, becomes Jonah’s accompanist in life and music). While Ruth, the youngest Strom, becomes a militant black activist, the two boys try to resurrect the music of dead white men with the history of the civil rights movement playing out in their background—always present, and yet never nearby.
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, by Teddy Wayne
Called the “angel of pop,” 11-year-old megastar Jonny Valentine has everything but a father . . . and a childhood. Wayne’s novel follows the preadolescent’s national tour as he wows his tween fans (and the occasional adult predator). Wayne’s second novel is both a cautionary tale and an insider’s look at some of the less salutary aspects of the music industry.