CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 5. . . .October 4, 2013
Dylan hears beautiful notes that "soar to the ceiling" and "swoop to the floor". Even with the business of his surroundings and people rushing by him in the subway station, Dylan is enchanted by the notes he hears and the beauty of the sounds. He sees a man playing this beautiful music with a violin and is captivated with the movement of his fingers on the instrument. His mom is too busy to stop as are many others in the subway station. But the sounds are everywhere, and they are so much better to this little boy than are the sounds of the crowds or the train. Dylan fights to hear the notes as his mother rushes off with him. The music stays with Dylan for the entire day. Much to his delight, he hears these same sounds later at home on the radio, and finally his mother stops cooking dinner, listens and then joins him in dancing to the music of that incredible violinist.
This outstanding collaboration between children's book author Kathy Stinson and illustrator Dušan Petricic explores in a unique way, the power and beauty of music to a child who is willing to pause and listen. The story is based on an actual event and an experiment organized by the Washington Post in 2007. What would happen if world famous violinist Joshua Bell appeared in a subway station in Washington D.C. with his equally famous Stradivarius, and he played a free concert to commuters. Well over a 1,000 people passed by Joshua Bell as he performed, but only seven stopped to listen to his skilful playing. The violinist, himself, noticed that many children would have stopped but were hurried along by parents going about their day-to-day lives. Hearing the facts of this event, Stinson was inspired and felt there was a story waiting to be written about the importance of paying attention to one's surroundings and taking the time to stop and listen. If we don't, how many other precious moments are we missing?
In the hands of such skilful creators, who have many books to their credit, this captivating tale is a beautiful balance between a simple but powerful text and illustrations that are full of vitality and rhythm. Stinson makes great use of specific word choices to verbally communicate sounds. Then the artist cleverly allows the use of colour to indicate these sounds and the violinist himself. Visually, the reader becomes aware of the music through the drawings as Dušan Petricic captures the sound in such a unique way. Right from the intriguing cover forward, the reader sees what the child sees at his eye level, and, except for the music and the musician, everything else is in a blur of shadows or sketched in grey and charcoal in the first few pages. Even the different sounds in the subway that compete with the violinist are rendered in black and white. It is amazing how effectively Petricic uses the energetic illustrations to convey the feel of movement and sound.
The book has a postscript which explains Joshua' Bell's story and an afterword by Joshua Bell, himself. It is also important to note that the back cover explains that "a portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to a charity that promotes engagement with music among young people."
Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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