cover image When Rubin Plays

When Rubin Plays

Gracey Zhang. Orchard, $18.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-338-64826-3

Inside a one-story building shaded by a palm forest, children play stringed instruments, an adult conducts, and a small boy, Rubin, listens, enraptured. Broad strokes of sunny yellow paint surround Rubin with warmth as he listens to the orchestra, and to his sister, Isabel, practicing the cello. When Rubin asks if he may learn to play, the maestro gives him a violin, but it’s not so simple. (Rubin’s cacophony is scrawled in black ink: “eeeeeeiiiieoooih.”) “Practice, Rubin,” the maestro tells him, “and you’ll soon play with us at the concert.” Rubin rehearses “quietly, quietly” at the back of the room, supported by his bandmates, but playing in the forest is better. The shrieks of his violin don’t bother anyone, and his yowling instrument attracts a clowder of cats that yowl back (“Miiaaoooo”). When the night of the concert comes, and Rubin joins in, his sound results in a magnificent whirlwind performance. Spreads and text from Zhang (Dear Mr. G) pulse with joy (“Forte forte forte his heart beat”) as the whole community acknowledges Rubin’s unique contribution (“Magnífico, Rubin,” Isabel sighs) in this wondrous tale of trust in self and collaboration. Protagonists are portrayed with brown skin. An author’s note concludes. Ages 4–8. Agent: Hannah Mann, Writers House. (July)