Book Review: The Man With the Violin

5 Oct

Today’s book review is for The Man With the Violin, written by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Dušan Petričić, published by Annick Press Ltd. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Man With the Violin was inspired by the story of Joshua Bell, a world famous violinist, who played his Stradivarius in a Washington, DC metro station for 43 minutes in January 2007, while dressed as a regular street musician. During that time period over 1000 people passed, but only 7 stopped to listen for more than a minute. However, it was observed that many children tried to stop and listen. The main character of the story, Dylan, is not a real child–but he represents the children who wanted to listen that day.

Stinson crafts a compelling narrative from the outset with her opening juxtaposition: “Dylan was someone who noticed things. His mom was someone who didn’t.” She tells the story of one child’s love of music and his desire to revel in its beauty. Any number of situations could have been used as a vehicle for the story–but by using the Bell story, Stinson drives her point home in a way that even the busiest of parents can appreciate. The resolution of the story is wonderful and should inspire the parents and caregivers who read it with their children.

However, it’s Petričić’s illustrations that made me fall in love with this book. They are full of movement and noise and magic. He starts with detailed pencil illustrations and then adds color sparingly. The effect is that the presence of color makes those aspects of the pictures take on a special life and energy. It draws us in, makes us notice and appreciate beauty in the little things. It’s also used to signify the presence of music–the sound moving through the world and making everything come alive. These images resonate with me on an emotional level. They make me gasp and tingle as I begin to experience what Dylan experienced.

Sometimes you stumble upon a book that touches you in unexpected ways. I feel like this was one of those instances. As I’ve been going about my days, I keep returning to it–thinking about the story, picturing the illustrations, telling others about my experience with it. And for that reason it gets 5 out of 5 stars. I want to read it over and over again. I want for others to read it. I want for schools and libraries to use it to teach music appreciation. I want it to get attention, lots of attention, because that’s what it deserves.

I recommend this book to anyone who understands that music is a type of magic. And to anyone who wants to encourage that feeling in children. I also recommend it to those who don’t understand, because maybe it will help them to do so.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

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