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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, written by Chieri Uegaki and illustrated by Qin Leng. Kids Can Press, 2014. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"The day of the talent show arrived and the school auditorium thrummed with excitement. Hana waited with a walloping heart. A dozen acts, including five other violinists, had already gone before her. Finally, Hana heard the master of ceremonies call her name."

This is another of those wonderful books that should have been shared with you much earlier than today. It was published last year, and has been languishing on my 'ready to be posted' shelf for far too long. No matter ... the story is as fresh and lovely as it was when published. It is a book that is sure to be read often in coming years. It is timeless, in that sense.

As brothers (and often other family members) will do, Kenji and Koji tease their little sister when she signs up for the upcoming school talent show. They remind that she has just started playing, that she is very inexperienced, and it is likely to be a disastrous experience for her. Hana knows three lessons are not enough to make her the violinist she wants to be; she wants to play as beautifully as his Ojiichan does at his home in Japan.

"Ojiichan didn't just play songs. He could also make his violin chirp
like the crickets Hana tried to find in the tall grasses.
He could pluck the strings to mimic the sound of raindrops on the
oil-paper umbrella Hana twirled under during summer storms."

Before leaving her grandfather's home she lets him in on a secret: she wants to learn to play the violin! Taking a very special lesson home with her, Hana practices tirelessly. Everyone in the family, including her dog, her grandfather's picture are an audience to her learning. Finally, it is the night of the talent show. Is she ready to perform for a live audience? It's a long way from backstage to the microphone at the front (Qin Leng fully perfectly encapsulates Hana's long and lonely walk in her digitally colored artwork).

Bolstered by support from her family and her best friend in the audience, while channeling her grandfather's encouragement, Hana is very proud following her performance:

"And that," she said to the audience,
"is how I play the violin."

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