Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Beethoven Lives Upstairs

Beethoven Lives Upstairs

Barbara Nichol
Illustrator:  Scott Cameron 
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Scholastic, 1994   ISBN: 978-0531068281

It is 1822 in Vienna and Christoph is writing to his uncle to tell him that a "madman has moved" into his house. The poor boy recently lost his father and to help pay for expenses Christoph’s mother is renting some of the rooms in her house to a Mr. Beethoven. Mr. Beethoven, a musician and composer, has some very peculiar and even alarming habits. In fact Mr. Beethoven is so dreadful that Christoph wishes his mother would get rid of the man.

Christoph and his mother do their best to accommodate the deaf musician who makes so much noise, who is so dreadfully messy, and who is unlike anyone they have met before. Christoph’s uncle does his best to respond to his nephew’s concerns and advises him to be patient and understanding. This Christoph tries to do and over time a very special relationship develops between the lonely little boy and the lonely deaf musician. This closeness becomes especially strong after Christoph goes to hear one of Mr. Beethoven’s compositions.

Through Christoph’s and his uncle’s letters we learn a great deal about the great composer and musician who had such a hard and difficult life. We get a picture of the times and understand what kind of a world Beethoven lived in. With great sensitivity and understanding the author gets inside the heart and mind of Christoph and by the end of the book we cannot help feeling close to both the boy and the man who was so tormented by his own genius.