Book of the Month Archive

The Chinese Violin

By Madeleine Thien,Illustrated by Joe Chang
Published by Whitecap Books
ISBN #978-1552852057

This month, I felt inspired by the wonderful Serendipity children’s literature conference, an annual event put on by The Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable with the help of the British Columbia Literacy Council. Serendipity’s theme was “Year of the Dragon”, featuring Asian authors and illustrators.

Told from the perspective of Lin Lin, a new immigrant to Canada from China, the story follows her adventures with her father as they discover their new home. While they revel in the beauty of Vancouver landscape and Canadian nature, Lin Lin and her father also struggle to fit into this strange, different society. “At school, the children called to each other in English and played games Lin Lin had never seen before. She stood by herself, listening to their laughter float across the playground. She looked up at the big blue sky, but even the sky felt like a stranger.” (The Chinese Violin [8]) Their treasured violin, brought with them from China, acts as a symbol of their homeland and provides comfort for them when they feel ostracized, mistreated or lonely.

The Chinese Violin is an excellent picturebook to use with grades 1-3 as a cross-curricular text with music class, and it especially shines a light on international music. Students will enjoy learning about traditional Chinese instruments such as the erhu, the dizi, and the gu zheng, as well as, of course, the violin (see more great information and lesson plan ideas by following the link to the study guide PDF below!)

The Chinese Violin was originally a short National Film Board animated film and has also been transformed into a play. Check out a PDF study guide (created for use with the play, but also relevant for use with the picturebook):

Read an interview with Madeleine Thien on the website:

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