Burl Crow hasn't had many breaks in his young life. His father is a manipulative lout with a dangerous temper; his mother, worn down by years of abuse, now resorts to her little helpers to get her through the days. Then he meets Nathaniel Orlando Gow, the Maestro, and in just one day, this eccentric genius changes Burl's life forever.
The wilderness of northwest Ontario is a fitting setting for this tantalizing coming-of-age story about an abused boy, Burl, whose pervasive sense of isolation is cracked by an encounter with a famous pianist. When Burl runs away from home, he follows the sound of piano music and finds its source in an unlikely, pyramid-like cabin. There, the Maestro, as Burl is instructed to call him, having fled busy Toronto and the demands of his public, is trying to finish writing his great oratorio before he dies. When the quirky Maestro leaves Burl in charge of the cabin and his grand piano, Burl thinks he's found a haven-but it's not long before events hurl the teen into a web of other people's plans and back to his own family trauma. Wynne-Jones's (Some of the Kinder Planets) builds strong, multidimensional characters; Burl's father Cal both teaches his son about fishing lures and punches him in the face; Burl triumphantly dreams of living alone but is desolate that his parents never bothered to report him missing; the Maestro loves nature but fears wildlife. Complex and poignant, wrapped around a dramatic story line, this book won Canada's Governor General's Award for Children's Literature in 1995. Ages 10-up.