The Music Thief

Last updated Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Author: Peni R. Griffin
Date of Publication: 2002
ISBN: 0805070559
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2007

Synopsis: From School Library Journal: On the first day of summer vacation, Alma starts her day by writing a fan letter to her favorite singer, Jovita. Later, as she listens to the radio, she hears the news that the performer has been killed in a drive-by shooting. Coupled with the recent death of her beloved abuela, the incident causes the 11-year-old to be beside herself with grief. Her family is struggling-her mother is working two jobs and her brother is working toward a life of crime with his gang. To find peace and quiet, Alma is drawn to her neighbor's house. Mrs. B. is a music teacher and has many CDs to which Alma enjoys listening. She also has a guitar that the girl begins teaching herself to play. The problem is that Mrs. B. is not aware that the child is spending her days in her house. When her brother follows her inside and burglarizes the house, Alma calls the police. She is forced to confess to Mrs. B., who is rightfully horrified that her home has been invaded. In the end, Alma receives a response to her fan letter that Jovita penned just before she was killed, Mrs. B. forgives her trespassing, and hope is rekindled for Alma. This is a realistic novel that doesn't provide pat resolution. Instead, it leaves readers earnestly wishing that Alma can find and stay on the right track. Her rite of passage will ring true for many young people. A good choice for those looking for a novel with fully realized contemporary issues.

Note to readers:
•  This is an easy quick read, you should be able to get through several chapters. This book deals with some mature issues: drugs, gangs, death, abuse, teenage pregnancy. Be prepared to think about these issues beforehand and how you will deal with questions that may arise.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Look at the cover of the book. What do you see? What do you think this story will be about?
•  This story is called “The Music Thief.” Who do you think the music thief is? Why do you think he/she is called a music thief?
•  In this story, the main character (Alma) has an idol (Jovita). What is an idol? Do you have any idols?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Alma misses her abuela, Jovita, and the way Eddie used to be. Is there anyone you miss? How do you remember them?
•  Why does Alma go to her neighbor’s house? Does she know she is doing something wrong by breaking in?
•  What do you do/where do you go when you are trying to get away from people?
•  Could Alma have asked her neighbor to teach her to play music ?(at the end of the book, the neighbor offers to help even after Alma tells her she has been sneaking inside and after Alma’s brother Eddie steals things from the house)
•  If Alma learned to play a musical instrument would she have needed to leave the house or could she have escaped by playing her instrument or doing something else she enjoyed (reading, drawing, writing, playing basketball, etc…)?

Craft ideas:
•  If you were Jovita, how would you respond to Alma’s letter? (at the end of the book, Alma receives a letter from her idol Jovita who wrote her before she died) Write a letter to your idol. (your favorite singer, actor, teacher, relative….)
•  Alma makes up a song to help Silvita (the baby)stop crying. Make up your own song. Share it with your group.
•  Draw and color a cover for your favorite C-D.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!