Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin

Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin is aptly titled, as it recounts how Itzhak Perlman’s fascination with music from an early age eventually led him to become one of the world’s premiere violinists. Ithzak overcame many obstacles on the way. His family didn’t have much money, so obtaining an instrument was a challenge. As a young boy, he nearly died of polio, and though he survived, the disease would leave him crippled for the rest of his life. Itzhak had to learn to overcome the negative stigma associated with him sitting to play instead of standing as is custom for featured soloists. Itzhak inspires old and young alike as he refuses to be contained or defined by his inability to use his legs. This book received a Schneider Family Book Award Young Children Honor, which recognizes books that embody “an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”

Here are three reasons to love this book:

  • Author Tracy Newman’s tone is more inspirational than informative. While the content is a true account of Itzhak’s younger years, Newman’s text never reads like dry biography. Readers feel Itzhak’s passion and love for creating beautiful music.
  • Illustrator Abigail Halpin presents a colorful palette that complements Newman’s text perfectly. “When Itzhak listened to music, a vivid rainbow of colors appeared in his mind – hues from dark green to red to yellow. Music brought Itzhak intense joy. And tears. Itzhak loved it.” Vibrant spreads with swirling musical lines, flowers, and breezes all portray a passionate spirit.
  • Adults may feel a deeper connection to the story when they learn that Itzhak Perlman is the solo violinist featured on the hauntingly beautiful Schindler’s List soundtrack.

I recommend this picture book for ages 6-10, though the content is appropriate for younger children and older children (and adults) will be inspired by Itzhak’s perseverance. I also suggest that after reading the book, you play some of Perlman’s performances (such as Schindler’s List) to make a deeper connection.