cover image Valentine and His Violin

Valentine and His Violin

Philip Hopman. Lemniscaat USA, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-9359-5417-0

Hopman’s sprightly hero carries a double curse: he’s a rotten violinist, and he’s supremely self-confident. “Horrible!” yells a woman after young Valentine saws his way through “Ode to Joy” in the town square. “Valentine is surprised,” Hopman writes, showing the boy walking away from the outraged townspeople, puzzled, but not upset. “It went pretty well, didn’t it?” Wandering through the picturesque European countryside, Valentine offers music to the unfortunate and beleaguered. His horrendous cacophony makes a stuck horse bolt, cures a constipated wolf, and forces a besieging army to retreat; eventually, like a young Forrest Gump, he reaches fame completely inadvertently. Hopman’s (Tom the Tamer) loopy, Quentin Blake-esque paintings offer whole landscapes of beguiling chaos; in the war scene, a shocked elephant plunges off a bridge as Valentine plays, while mustachioed foot soldiers race off and war boats row hysterically away. The improbable power of Valentine to wreak havoc and the deadpan suitability of his musical selections (the “Marche Militaire” chases the army off, while for the constipated wolf he plays “Water Music”) will endear him and his creator to readers. Ages 4–up. (Sept.)