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Friday, April 24, 2015

A Violin for Elva, written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Tricia Tusa. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Allen & Son. 2015. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"When she could have
been learning subtraction,
or should have been going
to sleep, she was playing
music only she could hear.
Summer, autumn, winter,
spring, Elva played. And
Elva grew. She outgrew her
sleeves, outgrew her shoes."

Elva is a dreamy young girl, wearing overalls and soaking her feet in a nearby stream when we first meet her. She seems delighted with the world. As she picks up her boots for the walk home, she stops in her tracks when she hears music. She watches through a hedge; but. she doesn't tell her parents. All she says to them is:

"I want a violin."

She is polite, she is self-assured. Her parents refuse. Elva has a solution ... she pretends. As she walks home from school, she uses a tennis racket and a tree branch for her performances. At home, she uses her toothbrush to prepare for her future success. Music consumes her. Throughout the seasons, throughout the years, Elva uses her imagination to make the music she loves.

Although she is very busy with her job, Elva never forgets how much she once wanted to play.

"I'm much too busy," Elva said, though she began to borrow records from the library downtown. At home, she listened to them. And then she felt she had picked up her violin again."

When she returns the records, the music stops. Nothing but silence. She does her best to fill the silence. And, she works. Years pass, Elva flourishes at her work and life. Suddenly she is too old to play the violin - or is she? Buying a much-loved instrument is the least of her worries. Learning to play on her own is a most difficult undertaking. There is so much to learn. Despite her ineptitude she perseveres.

Then, one day ... a solution presents itself in a newspaper ad.

Tricia Tusa's watercolor and ink artwork allows readers to dream along with Elva as she grows from young, impressionable girl to responsible working woman, and finally to an aging music lover with recurring dreams of making the music she loves. The pages are full of life and action; music permeates its pages. When Elva finally realizes her lifelong dream, we cannot help but smile seeing her stand with all of Madame Josephina's beginning students, proudly showing their skills in recital.

Brava, Elva!

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