Cover image for Firmament
Bowler, Tim.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004.

Physical Description:
306 pages ; 22 cm
While struggling to cope with the death of his father, a gifted musician, fourteen-year-old Luke must deal with a dangerous bully, a lonely old woman, a blind young girl, his mother's romantic involvement, and his own musical talent.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.0 14.0 78111.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Y FICTION Adult Fiction Young Adult

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"Good hands, Luke," Dad had said. "Special hands. Strong and sensitive. You can do anything you want with hands like these.So don't ever put them to bad use." Luke has good hands. Everybody says so. Good for playing the piano -- just like his father did before he died. And good for climbing -- climbing trees, climbing toward the stars, in search of some peace away from family troubles.Now Skin and his gang want Luke to do some climbing for them. They want him to climb into Mrs. Little's house to look for something to steal. They want him to prove he's a real part of the gang.But nobody is ready for what Luke discovers when he does climb into the house. He encounters something so unexpected that it changes everything -- something that unlocks secrets and helps Luke find out exactly who he is and what it is that he's been searching for.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-10. Fourteen-year-old Luke is brilliant in music, but after his concert pianist father's untimely death, his life goes into free fall. He finds himself haunted by sounds--music, a constant weeping, a mysterious rumbling--and by the unseen but deeply felt presence of his father. Worse, he begins to hang out with a local gang, and when, to prove himself, he breaks into the home of a wealthy recluse, he finds something that will change his life. Carnegie Medal-winning author Bowler writes beautifully about music and the emotional pain of loss. His characters are multidimensional and always interesting, but his uneasy mixture of genres--realism, fantasy, and mystery--doesn't quite gel. Nor does he satisfactorily explain Luke's central--and highly improbable--decision to join the gang. On the other hand, the enigmatic elements of his plot are tantalizing, and the novel's emotional intensity will attract an enthusiastic readership. --Michael Cart Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bowler (River Boy) experiments with fascinating ideas about the power of music, but his novel takes too long to unfold, and ultimately becomes overly complicated. Luke, a musical genius with the ability to hear sounds as small as "the feather-touch" of cat paws in the garden, joins a gang of bad boys after the death of his father, a concert pianist. When Skin, the group's leader, forces Luke to break into the home of Mrs. Little, Luke discovers "the ugly old woman" isn't living alone, but is secretly raising a deeply disturbed girl, Natalie (who is not only traumatized, but blind and mentally challenged as well). Luke begins hearing Natalie crying and also a childlike melody, even when he's far from her house. But as he gets involved in her life, he begins to unravel a shocking mystery about her and the woman she calls Nana. Music plays an important-and intriguing-role in the novel; not only does Luke play the piano to calm Natalie, but they both experience wonders such as hearing the trees singing, or seeing images formed by the sound of notes. The English village setting, its forest and the quirky characters (such as Luke's eccentric-but-wise music teacher) lend the novel a fairytale quality, where mystery feels possible. Unfortunately, too much plotting leaves little room for exploring the characters' complex relationships, causing their bonds with one another (and Mrs. Little's dramatic transformation) to seem disingenuous. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-10-Luke, 14, is in big trouble. "Skin," a teen with a well-earned reputation for violence, has threatened to seriously hurt him if Luke refuses to break into an old woman's house and steal a beautiful wooden box sure to contain valuables. Luke is trapped, and once inside the house, he's startled by the devastating weeping of a young girl. Worse, Skin isn't Luke's only problem. He's still grieving so hard over his father's death that he can't concentrate and is nearly flunking out of school. He skips classes; fights with his mother, who has a new boyfriend; and is rude and surly to everyone, even his beloved music teacher. Luke feels that the only thing he has left is his music, his gift for playing the piano, just like his father. Firmament is a fascinating coming-of-age story with deeply developed characters. The author's understanding of the way a musician separates notes in his head and the ability to translate them into a dialogue between his hands and his instrument is amazing. However, one disturbing scenario might hit readers hard, especially given recent news stories of abducted children. Once Luke discovers that the mentally retarded child had been found and hidden away by the old woman for two years, he reunites her with her parents but does not notify authorities. Overall, though, the author's lyrical writing will enthrall readers and draw them into a heartfelt story that resonates just like great music. Pair Firmament with Bruce Brooks's Midnight Hour Encores (HarperCollins, 1986) during booktalks. Both titles will be eagerly snatched up and loved.-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.