cover image A Violin for Elva

A Violin for Elva

Mary Lyn Ray, illus. by Tricia Tusa. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-15-225483-4

Elva, a girl with an upturned nose whose hair is never quite tidy, hears a neighbor’s enchanting music through the hedge and asks her parents for a violin. Ray’s (Go to Sleep, Little Farm) prose softens their refusal by giving it lilt and rhythm: “She asked them both. She asked with please. But they hadn’t heard what Elva heard. And they said no.” Elva, undeterred, continues to dream. She grows up, works, loves her dog, grows gray—and buys, at last, a violin. Ray’s story is not a fairy tale—Elva never masters the instrument—but Tusa’s (Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean) image of the earnest woman standing amid much smaller child students at their first recital has a deep sweetness. Quiet humor (Elva’s dog lying belly-up on the floor, defeated by his mistress’s terrible intonation) provides a tender accompaniment to this meditation on fulfilling one’s dreams. The last spread, in which Elva soars into the air with her violin, borne aloft on strains of music, offers a vision of the only kind of success that really matters. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Jan.)