Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Valentine and His Violin

Valentine and His Violin

Philip Hopman
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Lemniscaat USA, 2012   ISBN: 978-1935954170

Valentine is taking violin lessons, and according to his teacher he is “doing very well.” When Valentine plays Ode to Joy in honor of the Queen’s birthday, people do not respond well, which greatly surprises the budding musician. Valentine thinks his performance went “pretty well,” so why did the mayor tell him to “Get outta here?”

Outside the city walls, Valentine sees that a wagon full of heads of cauliflower has gone off the road. The horse hitched the wagon is too “old and feeble” to pull the wagon out of the mud. Valentine decides to play a little music to comfort the poor horse, and when he does, the horse quite suddenly finds the energy to pull that wagon out of the mud and back onto the road. Instead of criticizing Valentine’s playing, the farmer says that it is “very…er…different.”

Later, in the mountains, Valentine comes across a knight and a dragon in combat. The knight seems to have the upper hand and then something goes wrong. Valentine plays a piece of music and the dragon turns tail and flies off as fast as it can. Could it be that Valentine’s lack of musical talent might actually be useful after all?

There are many stories about people whose musical ability is so remarkable that people are in awe of them. These musicians move their audiences to tears and sooth heavy hearts. In this picture book, we meet a musician whose lack of musical ability is quite singular. In short, his violin playing is terrible. What makes the story so splendid is that Valentine’s lack of talent ends up being an asset. How wonderful to meet a hero who is not perfectly perfect.

With delicious artwork, a clever story, and a perfect ending, this is a book that children and adults alike will enjoy.