Molly and the Sword
by Robert ShlaskoIllustrated by Donna Diamond
Jane & Street Publishers
Hardcover, 32 pages, $15.95
Molly and the Sword is a lovely picture book about a young girl violinist who has a moment of doubt as she is about to play in a grand concert hall.
The story begins with Molly as a little girl, singing in their home’s yard while her mother works in their vegetable garden. From early on, she loves music. Then something horrible comes to what used to be their peaceful village: War.
With her mother pregnant and no water to drink, their situation becomes desperate. It is then that Molly decides to do something about it. In spite of the danger, she ventures into the next village in search of water. There, she is captured by the enemy, who take her for a spy. That is, until a handsome enemy officer saves her life and grants her freedom. Thus Molly, unharmed, goes back to her family.
Time passes and the war is over. One day, Molly is captivated by a clown playing the violin in a passing circus. When her birthday arrives, her father exchanges his most valuable grandfather clock for a violin, and brings it to Molly as a gift.
It is the 19th century, when few girls had the courage to become musicians because of prejudice. But Molly loves her violin and, more than anything, she wishes to play well and become a great violinist. Day after day, she works hard at her lessons. Then a wonderful opportunity comes her way, but on the day she is to perform in a famous concert hall, her courage falters and she’s overcome with fear. Will she succeed? Will she make her family and teacher proud?
Then Molly receives a strange gift–a golden sword encrusted with jewels–and she remembers the feeling of bravery she experienced years ago. Will this give her the courage she needs to play on stage? And who is the handsome stranger sitting in the audience? Could it be the officer who once saved her life?
This is a charming picture book with a nice traditional feel to it. It is actually an illustrated chapter book, as the story is separated by very short chapters, each about 3 pages long. The prose flows like soft music, suiting well the theme and the violin element. The author puts forth an important message for all children, especially violin students, about self-esteem, courage, and the need to work hard in order to achieve our dreams. The fourteen illustrations, realistic in style and done in soft pastel colors, add to the quiet tone and complement the story beautifully. I’d especially recommend this book to music teachers and to parents of children who play the violin, to give to them as gifts. Having said that, this isn’t a book just for young violinists, but one which will make a nice addition to any home, class, or library shelf.
Reviewed by Mayra Calvani, Violin and Books