Tamara is struggling to find the confidence to play her accordion in front of an audience. She learns the tunes well enough, and can play them when she's alone—but as soon as she tries to perform for others, everything falls apart.
One day her father encourages her to try playing for an elderly man in the seniors' home where her grandmother lives. This man is Art Stoyles, a legendary accordion player in her hometown of St. John's, who is best known for a beautiful set of tunes called "The Portuguese Waltzes." Inspired by Stoyles, and by the stories of his musical friendship years before with a sea captain who fished the Grand Banks with the Portuguese White Fleet, Tamara gains the confidence she needs to perform.
This charming middle reader celebrates the interconnections that music creates—forging bonds between young and old, reaching across cultures and oceans—and the mysterious hold that music can have on listeners and musicians alike. The story also highlights the deep connections that developed between Portugal and Newfoundland because of the cod fishery.
Part of a larger, on-going project, The Mystery of the Portuguese Waltzes grows out of author and musician Richard Simas's fascination with the tunes Tamara learns; they are among the most beautiful and unique tunes that have come out of Newfoundland and Labrador, and their creation is the stuff of local legend.
Art Stoyles, a much loved figure in the traditional music community in Newfoundland, was a member of many local musical groups, including the ground-breaking trad/rock band Figgy Duff. In 2005, he received the East Coast Music Association's Stompin' Tom Connors Award for his contributions to Atlantic Canadian music. He died in 2015 after a musical career that spanned almost six decades.
The book features several colourful linocut illustrations by St. John's-based printmaker and musician Caroline Clarke, whose lively and engaging artwork often explores traditional Newfoundland music.