by Anne Dublin
As an author of historical novels and biographies for the last twenty years, I’ve come to realize that story ideas float around the universe waiting for someone to grab them and write them down. Sometimes we find these stories by searching for them; other times, they fall into our laps. The idea for Jacob and the Mandolin Adventure came to me through a combination of luck and happenstance. I had begun working on a historical novel about a Jewish orphanage in Poland after World War II when, out of the blue, I got a phone call from Dave Fleishman. “Anne, please meet me for coffee,” he said. “I have a story about my grandfather that I want to tell you.” At first, I refused. I didn’t know Dave and I was immersed in my book and didn’t want to get distracted. But Dave persisted, and I finally agreed.
We met at a coffee shop near my home. Dave told me about his grandfather, Morris Saxe (pictured right), who had immigrated to Canada in 1902 from Ukraine. Morris studied agriculture at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, Ontario, and served as an interpreter for the Canadian armed forces during World War I. After the war, he bought two farms and went on to establish several businesses in Acton and Georgetown. In 1926, he founded the Canadian Jewish Farm School.
My book begins in 1927, when Morris received permission from the Canadian government to bring a group of twenty-seven Jewish orphans from Mezritsh, Poland to Canada. I’ve written several other books about orphans published by Second Story Press: The Orphan Rescue, 44 Hours or Strike! and A Cage Without Bars. When Dave told me about this group of orphans who came to Canada, their story piqued my interest. And when he added that most of them played in a mandolin orchestra, I was hooked!
Dave kindly shared two huge binders of research materials, and I was on my way. After doing my own research, especially in the Mezritsh Yizkor (Remembrance) Book, I began to develop my fictional characters, focusing on the two main protagonists: Jacob, and his friend, Ezra. I did additional research about the real people in the story: Anna Adler, Eli Greenblatt, Phillip Podoliak, and of course, Morris Saxe. I conducted interviews and took research trips to Georgetown and other places in southern Ontario—unfortunately, not to Mezritsh, because of the pandemic. While I wrote, I listened to mandolin music and took some mandolin lessons. The story flowed from my head and my heart.
I’m grateful to Dave Fleishman for the gift of this story and to Second Story Press for publishing Jacob and the Mandolin Adventure (March 2021). It’s about overcoming obstacles and making a new life in a new country, the importance of friendship, and the joy of music. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Anne Dublin is a former teacher-librarian and award-winning author living in Toronto. She is the author of several books for young people, including Jacob and the Mandolin Adventure, June Callwood: A Life of Action, Bobbie Rosenfeld: The Olympian Who Could Do Everything, The Orphan Rescue, 44 Hours or Strike!, and A Cage Without Bars.