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Children's Fiction General

Gift of Music, A

Emile Benoit and his Fiddle

by (author) Alice Walsh

illustrated by Geoff Butler

Breakwater Books Ltd.
Initial publish date
Mar 2010
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2010
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: 1 to 3


When he was a young boy, Emile Benoit dreamed of having his own fiddle. All he had was a toy with some thread for strings. But on his twelfth birthday, he got a big surprise! His father had made a fiddle out of old violin parts. Soon he was amazing everyone by playing tunes he wrote himself. And by the time he was an adult, he had played his instrument all over the world.

About the authors

Alice Walsh was born and raised in Newfoundland, Canada. An alumnus of St. Mary’s University and Acadia University, Walsh has degrees in both English and criminology, and a master’s degree in English literature with a focus on children’s literature. She is the award- winning author of several children’s books and young adult novels, including Pomiuk, Prince of the North, A Sky Black with Crows, and her latest book, A Long Way from Home. Walsh has received the Canadian Children’s Book Centre “Our Choice” Award, the Ann Connor Brimer Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award. A former preschool teacher, probation officer, and creative writing instructor, Walsh currently lives and writes in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.

Alice Walsh's profile page

Artist Geoff Butler is a Nova Scotian artist and writer who was born on Fogo Island, NL. He did paintings for the "Ode to Labrador" during an artist residency at North West River, Labrador, just a stone's throw from Dr. Paddon's house. Geoff's self-published books are Art of War: Painting it out of the picture; The Look of Angels: Angels in Art; With Every Breath We Take: a modern fable in which a snowflake helps put an end to war; and Our Own Little World: in paintings and verse. He has also illustrated Ode to Newfoundland (Tundra Books, 2003).Author Robin McGrath is a former academic who specialized in Inuit Studies She did twenty-five years of field research in the Canadian Arctic before returning to her home in Newfoundland, later moving to Labrador in 2006. She is the award-winning author of numerous books, including Inuit Literature: The Development of a Tradition, the novels Donovan's Station and The Winterhouse, the poetry collections Escaped Domestics and Covenant of Salt, and All in Together: Nursery Rhymes of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Geoff Butler's profile page

Librarian Reviews

A Gift of Music: Émile Benoit and his Fiddle

A Gift of Music celebrates a Canadian whose musical gift brought joy to many the world over. In the tiny Newfoundland outport of Black Duck Brook lived Émile Benoit, a little boy who dreamt of becoming a fiddle player. He loved to listen to the music the mummers performed at his house on New Year’s Eve, but it was the violin that caught his attention!

Émile’s father made him a tiny violin with thread for strings and promised to make him a real violin when he was older. The lad could think of little else. Dropping out of school at an early age to fish with his father, he composed tunes in his head while braving the turbulent sea. “Music was all around him, in the cry of the gulls, the pounding waves, the rushing wind. His head was filled with music.” The years passed by, and one day he arrived home to find the crafted violin on the kitchen table. He soon astounded one and all by performing his own compositions. By the time he was an adult he was bringing his unique musical style to festivals and to television and radio programs throughout the world.

Alice Walsh has written an informative and affectionate account of a Newfoundland folk icon — a man who overcame humble beginnings to become “the finest fiddler around.” Her words not only capture a sense of place but also the poignancy of an individual who yearned to be a musician in spite of many personal hardships. Also included are useful historical notes and a sample of one of Benoit’s melodies.

Through Geoff Butler’s illustrations, readers are transported from a kitchen ceilidh to the stormy sea, with a few scene changes along the way. Butler well captures the essence of outport life in the early 1900s with his paintings and ably supports Alice Walsh by creating the perfect atmosphere for her text.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Summer 2011. Volume 34 No. 3.

A Gift of Music: Émile Benoit and his Fiddle

This touching story of a young boy’s dream to have his own fiddle is based on the true story of Émile Benoit, a gifted fiddler from Newfoundland. On his twelfth birthday, his father presents him with a fiddle made out of old violin parts. Before long he is amazing everyone by playing tunes he has composed in his head.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2011.

Other titles by Alice Walsh

Other titles by Geoff Butler