The Sandy Bottom Orchestra

( 2 )


Rachel thinks her parents' weirdness is rubbing off on her and she is becoming the town nerd. The only time Rachel feels normal is with the Dairyland Symphony Orchestra -- but is that enough to sustain her through the long, lonely summer?

Fourteen-year-old Rachel comes to terms with her eccentric family while taking refuge in her violin playing.

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Rachel thinks her parents' weirdness is rubbing off on her and she is becoming the town nerd. The only time Rachel feels normal is with the Dairyland Symphony Orchestra -- but is that enough to sustain her through the long, lonely summer?

Fourteen-year-old Rachel comes to terms with her eccentric family while taking refuge in her violin playing.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Debuting as a writing team, Keillor (Lake Wobegon Days) and his musician wife, Nilsson, offer a keenly perceptive slice of Midwestern life as they evoke the muddled emotions of a 14-year-old violinist from Sandy Bottom, Wis., a place as uninspired as its name. Embarrassed by her pianist mother's tireless efforts to instill "cultural awareness" in the community and dubious about her dairy-manager father's decision to conduct a full orchestra (cannons included) at the annual Dairy Days festival, Rachel Green would just as soon spend her summer some place far away (Italy, for example). But staying at home and joining the local orchestra does hold promise, especially when it means she will be seeing more of Scott, an attractive young cellist. Readers will empathize with Rachel's longing to be more "mainstream" without compromising herself and will savor the priceless characterizations of quirky dairylanders (among them a mayor with "an I.Q. around room temperature" and a cat-loving, aging string player with "bird-cage" hair). Throughout, heartland sentiments and artistic egos are parodied with affection. Even when personalities clash and conflicts arise, an aura of warmth and optimism prevails. Ages 10-up. (Dec.)
Children's Literature - Shree Van Vreede
Rachel Green is afraid of becoming just like her parents. Her mother, the town activist, and her father, the sappy symphony lover, are embarrassing and abnormal in the eyes of this fourteen-year-old. On top of that, she is stuck in the small town of Sandy Bottom. She and her best friend, Carol, are moving in different directions and are not as close anymore. Ultimately, Rachel is searching for her niche. She is a promising violinist and is the most comfortable with herself when she is playing. This book takes the reader on a familiar journey of both the overwhelming worries and the shocking discoveries that come with being a teenager. Any young adult, particularly a teenage girl, will walk away knowing that they are not alone. A humorous and perceptive book about growing up.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8Rachel Green is an only child in a small town in Wisconsin. She loves playing the violin and does it well. Other than that, she spends her time being embarrassed by her slightly eccentric parents, who are too culturally advanced for their community, and worrying about what everyone else thinks about her. Young readers who adore music and who feel out of place in their communities will desire far more fleshing out and depth of musical knowledge. The story reads somewhat like a sports novel without any play-by-play action. Readers who are unsophisticated about music and accept the simple references to a Mozart Concerto as though there were only one will have a hard time finding a reality that convinces. A violin teacher and Rachel's mother's friend who lives in Italy appear with promise, but then fizzle and fade. Rachel's own inconsistenciesone minute complaining about her family not going anywhere and the next rhapsodizing about last year's trip to Italycould leave readers wondering if she is unaware of her ups and downs or if the authors forgot who wrote what. The girl's feelings of ostracism could provide a connection but her own elitist attitude is off-putting. Rachel speaks sometimes like a Keillor radio monologue and sometimes not. A far better novel about a talented musical teen is Virginia Wolff's The Mozart Season (Holt, 1991). Suffering from an inconsistent voice and parents who are far more interesting than the central character, this is light entertainment, acceptable as fluff summer reading and proof, once again, that a famous name on the title page is no guarantee of quality in children's books.Carol A. Edwards, Minneapolis Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
As with Keillor's Lake Wobegon monologues, this tale of a Wisconsin teenager meeting adolescence head-on wanders amiably past daydreams, a vivid—sometimes unruly—cast, and the ups and downs in a very small town.

In this team's first novel for young readers, chapters open and close in Rachel's life as she finishes eighth grade: Scott, met in music class, makes friendly overtures; her best friend, Carol, drifts away; the option of leaving town for an arts- oriented boarding school in the autumn comes up in family discussions, and she is invited to play violin in a summer orchestra—for money! The approach of Dairy Days, the town's Fourth of July celebration, brings successive crises, and Rachel ultimately finds herself part of an orchestra for which her fiery, chain-smoking mother is the pianist and her gentle father, the conductor—even though his previous experience with the baton has been entirely in front of the CD player. Rachel displays a winning mixture of courage and confusion as she makes her way through a first date, encounters with adults of various temperaments, and rehearsals with often-frisky fellow musicians. Nicely timed observations and frequent flights of fancy keep the tone wry and low-key, but there is nothing restrained about the closing's fireworks, blasting cannon, and soaring 1812 Overture. The parts may be more memorable than the sum, and adult characters more sharply drawn than the young ones, but Rachel's uncertainties and anxieties are explored with a sure touch, and the setting is totally convincing.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786812509
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 4/2/1998
  • Pages: 272
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 7.67 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Garrison Keillor
Garrison Keillor is the host of Public Radio International's A Prairie Home Companion and the author of many novels. He coauthored The Sandy Bottom Orchestra, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, with his wife Jenny Lind Nilsson, and wrote two picture books for younger readers. His adult titles include Lake Wobegon Days, Leaving Home, and The Book of Guys. He lives in Minnesota with his family.


Garrison Keillor is the author of thirteen books, including Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, Wobegon Boy, and Lake Wobegon Days. From 1999-2001, Keillor wrote a column "Dear Mr. Blue: Advice for Lovers and Writers" on Keillor's popular Saturday-night public radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, is in its twenty-seventh season. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and daughter.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Gary Edward Keillor (real name)
      Garrison Keillor
    2. Hometown:
      St. Paul, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 7, 1942
    2. Place of Birth:
      Anoka, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Minnesota, 1966

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2001

    Don't let this one be at the bottom of your bookshelf!

    Rachel Green can relate to almost every child on this planet: her parents seem strange and are embarrasing,(aren't they all though!) she feels as if she is an outsider, but she has her own talent. In this case, it's music. Garrison Keiler amuses us with a book filled with humor and hope!! Recommended!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2001

    This is my favorite book!

    This book is a great read and I could really relate to the characters. I play the violin too, and it was nice to see a book that could capture everything about the music.

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