Book Review: Sights by Susanna Vance

There aren’t many young adult novels involving accordions, but Bruce Triggs found one. Bruce — co-host of the excellent Accordion Noir radio show in Vancouver — penned this book review for Let’s Polka:

Sights by Susanna VanceI picked up Susanna Vance’s book Sights, because the (hardback) cover is of a girl playing accordion. I was literally on my way to the Vancouver (BC) Accordion Circle, where I was quick to show it off.

Sights tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who’s had what’s euphemistically called a “tough” childhood, moving to a new school and making friends with some other outcasts and forming a band. She plays accordion… they rock… cool! I wanted her to be a big Johnny Grande fan (accordionist with Bill Haley and the Comets), but he isn’t mentioned.

I was really impressed with the “sound” of the narrator (whose name is Baby Girl). Without telling where she is from, she gives a really consistent rural USA sound to the book. I’ve lived a lot of places in America, and she sounded kind of Okie/Appalachian. I’m not sure where she’s from, but it’s really nice.

It has grimmer aspects than Victoria Miles’ Magnifico, the other teen book I know with accordion content. People should be aware that it deals matter-of-factly with subjects like child abuse and adolescent sexuality, but I do recommend it. (I similarly have to remember to tell people that Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes is kinda violent, which I overlook in the richness of it all.)

There are elements of fantasy in the story’s vision of 1950’s USA. I wouldn’t call it realistic; even the violence is rather odd. But if you’re prepared (by reading this), you should be in for a swell time.

You can listen to Accordion Noir, co-hosted by Bruce Triggs and Rowan Lipkovitz, every Friday night on CFRO CO-OP Radio, 102.7 FM in Vancouver, or download episodes online at


  1. Thanks for the review, Bruce!
    I remember being in contact with you when you first picked up a copy of SIGHTS, and thinking then, as I did again on reading your review, I wish I HAD been clued in to Johnny Grande! He looks amazing. I’ve tried to hear him play, but no luck so far.
    There’s no other instrument than the accordion that would have been right for Baby Girl, I methodically tried them all. Once chosen, the notes from her beautiful instrument festooned my dreams for a year as I wrote her story. I’m glad to know she’s in such stellar company!
    Best wishes,
    Susanna Vance

  2. You can hear Johnny Grande on our Revisionist Rock and Roll History on We played two tracks by him and the Comets. Their “Rockin’ Little Tune” from 1956 is cool. I wish we had more of their early western-swing stuff. Maybe somebody out there has some?