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ViolinThe Man with the Violin
By Kathy Stinson
Illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Ages 5-8
978-1-55451-565-3
Annick Press

In The Man with the Violin, author Kathy Stinson and illustrator Dušan Petričić introduce kids to the true story of famous violinist, Joshua Bell, who played — largely unnoticed — in a busy subway station. Told through the eyes of Dylan — a fictional boy moved by what he hears — this story urges readers to slow down, tune in, and take note of the beauty around them. What’s more, it celebrates the fact that kids do notice beauty.

Stinson and Petričić’s collaboration helps kids tune in to what Dylan notices. Upside-down newspapers, unmatched boots, backward numbers — they’re all colourfully highlighted against the busy black and white opening scene. The sparse text also draws attention to the pictures. Later, Stinson’s melodious descriptions and Petričić’s colourful swirls seem to envelop the reader, captivating them just like the music captivates Dylan. In subsequent readings kids may even notice other things in the populated station, as Petričić (an editorial cartoonist and caricaturist) trusts readers to discover that there are characters in the background who evoke stories of their own.

The fictional story is complimented by an afterword that encourages kids to learn more about Joshua Bell and the events at the subway station. This combination of fact and fiction makes The Man With A Violin both an empowering story about kids’ ability to notice beauty, and a reflection on a moving experiment that invites the rest of us to do the same.

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Jen Bailey teaches in the Professional Writing Program at Algonquin College, Ottawa. She holds an MFA in Writing from VCFA, and writes for children and young adults.

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