Book review: ‘Growing Up at Mooseheart’

“Growing Up at Mooseheart” is a story of survival, triumph and joy, as well as one of passion and perseverance.
Courtesy image |

This story will tug at your heartstrings. It did mine. “Growing Up at Mooseheart” is a beautifully written memoir by the late Dr. John Delmonaco. Many fondly called him “the music man” because of his God-given talent and profound love for the art of music. A resident of Lake Tahoe for 12 years, Delmonaco made meaningful and significant contributions to school music programs locally. I found “Growing Up at Mooseheart” to be moving and inspirational.

Delmonaco candidly exposes his life story with grace and courage, page after page. After the tragic, untimely death of his father, his four brothers, mother and he take up residency at “Mooseheart,” a facility that shelters, educates and nurtures orphans. The key for entry is the loss of one or both parents, an entrance requirement no child wants to claim. Once inside, the requirement becomes a common bond. Mooseheart, known as the “child city,” soon evolves into the only lifestyle they know. At seven, Delmonaco was the eldest. The youngest was only 18 months old. On the day of their arrival, May 28, 1930, he had to be brave. The scene is set early in the reader’s mind: Five brothers clutching their belongings, suitcases, teddy bears and paperwork, all assigned to separate units. Mom? She would be caring for other children in yet another unit. As an assistant matron she would visit her children on a regular schedule. She of course was anxious too. Only 28 years old at the time, her decision was a difficult one, but based on what was best for all. Fear, loneliness, confusion and sorrow gripped the Delmonaco boys when they realized they would be separated. Would they ever see each other again?

Readers will learn about what it’s like to be the new kid in the room and also what it’s like to feel the fear of leaving the only place you’ve known as home on graduation day at age 18. Delmonaco shares his insights on how Mooseheart provided training that served him well — loving and acceptance of everyone was a daily credo. He expounds upon his exposure to the arts and the conditioning and discipline he endured — sometimes harsh but profoundly effective. Mooseheart taught him the appreciation of a hard day’s work — the sanctity of tilling the earth, planting, growing and building. These and other lessons formed him into the man he became. When Delmonaco discovered his passion for music his world changed forever. Music provided a joy within him he’d never experienced. “The more I played the more everything jelled into an exhilaration I’d never felt before,” Delmonaco writes. He had found his calling. Music would always be part of his legacy and the gift he gave to the world around him.

“Growing Up at Mooseheart” is artistically written, with each word and phrase carefully considered. Delmonaco describes walking through snow saying, “I looked back into the sunken footprints and saw black holes punctuating where I had been. I felt like a different person, as I looked ahead, different than the person looking back.”

It’s a story of survival, triumph and joy, as well as one of passion and perseverance. “Growing Up at Mooseheart” is a keeper, one you’re sure to enjoy. It can be purchased at or through Simply Eclectic Books, P.O. Box 487, San Clemente, CA 92674.

Gloria Sinibaldi resides part-time in South Lake Tahoe. Her short story, “A Means To Survive,” appears in “Tahoe Blues.” She is a job coach, trainer and author. She contributes monthly to the business section of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Contact her at:

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