________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 15 . . . . March 29, 2002

cover The Chinese Violin.

Madeleine Thien. Illustrated by Joe Chang.
Vancouver, BC: Whitecap Books, 2001.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55285-205-9.

Subject Heading:
Chinese-Canada-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Linda Ludke.

*** /4


Sometimes, Lin Lin and her father floated the day away on the river. He would play his violin, and Lin Lin would try to play it too. Afterward, she would close her eyes and listen to the sounds - the frogs singing, the children laughing, the drifting cry of the violin.

In this touching story that is beautifully crafted, Lin Lin and her father leave their small village in China to immigrate to Canada. To help ease their anxiety and fears, Lin Lin's father plays his violin. The music comforts them, bringing memories of their far away home. As the family tries to find their place in a new community, they are faced with difficult challenges. Walking home one night, Lin Lin's father is robbed, and his cherished violin is broken in the assault. While Lin Lin struggles with learning a new language at school, her father puts in long hours as a dishwasher. Lin Lin is determined to learn English and dreams of the day she will be accepted by her classmates. Her father's surprise gift of a new violin becomes her way of communicating: "It didn't matter that she was shy when she spoke. They loved the sound of her music."

inside art

     Chang originally produced The Chinese Violin as a wordless, animated short for the National Film Board of Canada. Motion and movement are ever present in his stylized, chalky illustrations, from the fluid ink brush strokes to the changing perspectives. The close up, full page picture of Lin Lin conveys her apprehension and feelings of alienation. The pages are handsomely designed, with gilded parchment paper backgrounds and a calligraphic typeface font.

     Adult short-story writer Madeleine Thien has created a lovely textual soundtrack for this picture book version of the story. Her language is rich with imagery ("a new language swept over Lin Lin like an ocean") and alive with sound ("laughter float[ing] across the playground"). Thien's words are carefully chosen to appeal to the senses and to show how the senses can be almost magically blurred by the joys of music ("Lin Lin felt her heart singing").


Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364