For almost four years, birthdays have been a problem for fifth grader Cadence Mariah Jolly, the main character in Sherri Winston’s novel The Sweetest Sound. The trickiness of birthdays began the day after Cadence’s seventh birthday, when her mother left a farewell note on the coffeepot revealing that life in Harmony, Pennsylvania, was hampering her passion to be a singer. When Chantel Marie Jolly abandons her family, her daughter’s world slips into darkness.
Now, Cadence, whom everyone calls Mouse, is known as the shy and quiet girl whose mother has left. For Cadence, spending an entire day reading and writing or listening to music and playing her keyboard is normal. Others see her as potentially depressed and secluding herself. More of a loner than a people person, she fears she is a freak, a blue moon—not mysterious and magical but rare and unusual. Her best friend Zara knows Cadence’s secret desires—to be like her favorite singer, Mariah Carey, and to be a number one Bestselling Author of Amazing Stories, but Cadence is too afraid of crowds and being in the spotlight. She’s not like Zara, who imagines herself a mermaid, “a protector, . . . a conqueror, . . . a beautiful defender of the sea” (48) or like their friend Faith, who likes surprises, isn’t afraid of taking risks, and will do anything to stand out. For Cadence, “change always felt a little like an unexpected note on a coffeepot” (66).
Exhausted by “being everyone’s favorite makeover project” (21) and worn out by everyone’s fussing, Cadence vows to be more of a Moon Goddess and less of a mouse. She wants to be a girl that takes action, not takes cover. Instead of others fearing they’ll catch motherless girl cooties, Cadence wants people to see her as a Princess Warrior or as Miss Adventure. But “what girl could feel awesome when the whole town was looking at her like she was sadder than a basket full of abandoned puppies?” (39).
Wishing for a little magic in her life, Cadence makes a promise to God, to share her secret talent with the world. And prayer being the powerful communication tool it is, she discovers herself on God’s email list. Cadence never imagined that getting exactly what she thought she wanted could be trouble or that a blessing could feel like a curse, but when her anonymous music video goes viral, she finds herself in the midst of a convoluted mess that she has created and learns that secrets can turn people into liars. Now, she wonders whether she’s a bad friend because she has a talent as Gospel Girl that her friend wants for herself. She also wonders if she isn’t being greedy by having two dreams.
The Sweetest Sound is filled with references to music, writing, and books. It is also ideal for sharing with young readers, the culture of gospel singers and how people’s fussing is actually a gesture of caring. However, the best lesson is perhaps learning that to be strong doesn’t mean changing everything.
- Posted by Donna