Anyone who has enjoyed The Sound of Music is likely to enjoy the true story of the Trapp Family as told by Maria herself in The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.
Yes, the Captain did summon the children with a whistle.
No, he was not nearly the martinet portrayed in The Sound of Music.
It’s fun to read the biography, picking out the details used in the musical. The rest of the story, after climbing over the mountains (not true) or supposedly taking a skiing vacation (true), continues with as much drama as the beginning, with laughter and tears.
Maria’s struggle with the language made me laugh so hard I couldn’t talk—and then cry because I wiped my eyes after slicing an onion. I should have been getting dinner instead of reading. When I could speak again, I read out loud for any family who were nearby, and it even drew a genuine out-loud laugh from a much-too-serious teenager. Or maybe his funny-bone was tickled because Grandma looked crazy, laughing so hard.
In Maria Trapp’s words:
I invented a method all my own, in which I tried to apply what I had learned about one word to as many like-sounding words as I could find. … for instance, I learned “freeze-frozen.” I wrote underneath in my precious little notebook: “squeeze-squozen” and “sneeze-snozen”.. When I admired the tall “hice” in New York, I got quite offended because they seemed to overlook the logical similarity between mouse-mice and house-hice.”
Maybe the funniest chapter in the book happens before the Nazis invaded Austria, when the Trapp family joined cousins for camping on an island, “Uncle Peter and His Handbook,” but you’ll have to read The Story of the Trapp Family Singers yourself.