This story is based on a real incident taken from the life Joshua Bell, renowned American violinist and conductor. Readers see his passion for music from the time he was very small, but this book focuses on a time when young Joshua decided he wanted to enter a competition. The piece he wanted to play was very difficult, even for adults, and it was his first competition.
Joshua was not to be deterred. He practiced diligently. On the day before the competition, he was very nervous. "By the time they arrived at their hotel, Joshua's insides felt the way his violin sounded if the strings were tuned too tight."
His nervousness continued as he waited for his turn to play. When he finally began, he made a small mistake that then became a series of mistakes. He stopped and asked the judges if he could start over. They acquiesced and Joshua played brilliantly.
This book is beautifully written. The descriptions of other students' performances at the competition are a perfect example.
"The music one student played tickled every hair on Joshua's head and vibrated right down to his toes. Another student hit all the right notes, but they hung limp in the air like wet laundry on the clothesline."
Dušan Petricic's illustrations have a Quenten Blake quality to them. They put me in mind of chromesthesia, a kind of musical synesthesia. Petricic portrays music as patterns of exploding colour; zigzagging, spinning or bursting in straight short lines.
Manifestations of music are the primary use of colour in the first few pages. The rest are line drawings with splotches of pink for cheeks and yellow for hair. Later on he captures Joshua's joy in music eloquently.
As the story progresses Joshua is filled with more colour, but the rest of the his world is portrayed in shades of brown and grey.
There are moments when the text and images unite brilliantly. Stinson's use of the vocabulary of music and Petricic's images combine to help readers understand this terminology.
But other times, Petricic's depiction of music as movements of colour didn't mesh with Stinson's narrative of Joshua hearing stories of dancers in the music. I would love to read the text only to a group of students and have them come up with their own illustrations and then compare them with the originals.
It's a minor quibble compared to the positive messages of not being afraid to tackle hard challenges and not giving up despite setbacks.
I appreciated the endnotes that provide additional information about Joshua Bell. If you want to find out how he did in the competition, you will have to find the book and read them.
I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review. You won't be able to get your own copy until March 14. Mark your calendar, it's worth the wait.