Klezmer is Hebrew for “instrument of song” and refers to a group of traveling musicians. Noah Davidovich (aka the Baron of my Backside) is one such traveling musician, but finds himself the only survivor when other musicians murder all of the party he is traveling with.He wanders for awhile but finds himself in a village where there is a wedding party and charms the party with his harmonica playing. He’s asked to stay but decides to move on. Chava, is a young girl of the village who doesn’t like the prospects that are lined up in marriage for her, so she follows the Baron when he leaves the village. The party acquires Yaacov, who has been expelled for his yeshiva (a Jewish academy of higher learning), Vincenzo, a violinist, and Tshokala, a gypsy entertainer.
These diverse parties come together and have to learn to work together so that they can make a living as a musical group. Author Joann Sfar is a brave fellow indeed. He chose to draw a graphic novel about something that graphic novels have no hope of capturing – music.
Graphic novels are a world of silence and the appeal of writing one that dealt with music appealed to him. However, his tale is about music but it is also about a group of musicians. The story is a compelling one and very interesting from a historical standpoint (it takes place before World War II).
Sfar also uses beautiful watercolor drawings to convey a near musical presence. The stage is set and the tale is only begun, the first bar is played in this book, and the next one is sorely wished for. Sfar enchants us and we look forward to the next concerto in book two.