Books and Violins and Music in General

Don’t you love this display at Vancouver Kids Books? Clever thinking on the part of its designer.

Vancouver Kids Books display

Good news for The Man with the Violin continues to roll in. It has already being reprinted. Starred reviews and others it’s attracted are lovely. It’s fabulous that the book is being made available at Joshua Bell’s North American concerts, and the man with the violin himself has even been signing them.

As it is with so many books and their authors though, it’s responses from individual readers that have especially moved me.

Like one man in his eighties who, after reading the book, recounted to me how music became such an important part of his life, rather late in his life, after hearing a jazz saxophonist playing sublimely inspired him to learn to play.

And like the teenager who still longs to learn to play harp, having been captivated by a harpist playing in a subway station when he was a little boy. He wanted to stop and listen, like Dylan in The Man with the Violin. Unlike Dylan’s mom, this boy’s mom did let him stop, and she listened with him, too, but a harp remains beyond her financial grasp.

And the friends I shared the book with last month. I didn’t know when I took it to their home that all the kids there were learning violin. After dinner, the 15-year-old brought hers out and treated us to several pieces. When I brought out my book, thinking the kids’ mother or grandmother might like to read it to them, the 6-year-old boy took hold of it and read it aloud instead – and very well, too. He stopped when he came to the pages without pictures toward the end. That’s okay. They tell the background to the story the boy had read, and I expected it to be of interest mainly to adults and older kids.

Earlier this summer, I read the book to another 6-year-old and his 4-year-old sister at my cabin, away from the main cottage that’s the focus of so much activity for my extended “Lake” family. The girl wandered away to watch the ducks in the bay when I came to the non-fiction pages, but when I’d finished reading them to her brother (he insisted, to show he was old enough to appreciate them, I expect), she asked if she could take the book over to the main cottage with her. I explained that I wanted to keep it at the cabin, it was my only copy, the printing company hadn’t made lots of copies yet, and I was concerned about what might happen to the book over there. Hoping to soothe her obvious disappointment I said, “But next year we can have a copy at the main cottage.” She studied me then and said, “Or maybe I can come back this afternoon and you can read it to me again.”

(She did come back, and she is now the proud owner of her own copy of the book at her home in Ottawa. It actually belongs to the whole family, but don’t try to tell her that.)

By the way, did you know that this year is the 300th anniversary of the making of Joshua Bell’s Stradivarius? You can read the story of the violin on his website. (You won’t see it in a store window anytime soon.) The man and his violin are also featured in the November 2013 issue of “The Strad” magazine.

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson

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