Title: A Violin for Elva
Author: Mary Lyn Ray
Illustrator: Tricia Tusa
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2015
Audience: 4-7 years old
Summary: Watching through a hedge, Elva heard a violin being played at a garden party. She asked her parents for a violin but they, who hadn’t heard the music as Elva had, said, “No.”. Elva pretended to make music-with a branch and a badminton racket, with a toothbrush as a baton, with a blackboard for writing music instead of math. As Elva grew older she gave up making music with anything that she could find. She went to work at an important job with a brief case and meetings. She did her work well. She had a dog and chocolates, a radio and a record player. Still she had an empty feeling when she heard music. One day she bought a violin. She tried and tried; the violin only squeaked when she played. She almost gave up. Then she went to a teacher, Madame Josephina and practiced each day. Now she had to play in a recital with many younger children. She began nervously and found, as she drew the bow across the string, that she was making music. Suddenly Elva saw a wonderful future with tomorrows full of music.
Literary elements at work in the story: Simply, sparingly told, Elva is still rich with details that bring the story to life. This is due, in part, to the wonderful watercolor and ink drawings that convey so much. (See the cat’s tail wrapped around Elva’s foot as she asks for the violin from two parents who are too tall to be fully seen.) Elva is a somewhat awkward little girl whose pleasure in music is almost palpable. Her transition to a busy, puposeful adult is wonderfully conveyed. The picture of Elva playing in the recital, the only adult among children, is particularly effective.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This could have been a boy but somehow, it wouldn’t have worked as well.
Theological Conversation Partners: Biblically, music has a special place in the worship of God. A book of praises, the Psalms, is in the center of our Bible. We are called to sing a new song, to make our praises heard, to play instruments, to sing joyfully. No Christian should ever say “I can’t sing.” Recognizing music as one of God’s gracious gifts, we should understand Elva’s desire to make music. Elva has the special benefit, not often found in a book for this age, in helping children understand grown-ups, their hopes and dreams. Children are often asked “What do you want to do when you grow up;” we assume adults have attained what they wanted. This is a good occasion for looking at vocational hopes from an adult perspective. The desire for music, for beauty, for learning about nature, for art-when children have such interests these may be God’s gift and God’s call. Talk about what God may want the child to do when she grows up.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why did Elva’s parents say “no’?
- When Elva couldn’t have a violin, what did she do? How did Elva “make music” without an instrument?
- How did she spend her grown up years without a violin? Did she do useful things? Did she forget about music?
- Was it easy for Elva to learn to make music? When did she almost give up?
- Is there something that you especially want to do now-like dance, or ice skate, or raise llamas? How long will you dream about doing this? Are there other dreams that may take the place of these dreams?
- Ask a parent if they got to do what they dreamed of.
- What do you think God dreams of you doing?
This review was written by alumna and regular contributor Virginia Thomas.
A Violin for Elva by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.