HANA HASHIMOTO, SIXTH VIOLIN
BY CHIERI UEGAKI & ILLUSTRATED BY QIN LENG
KIDS CAN PRESS (AUGUST 2014)
32 PAGES, $18.95 (HARDCOVER)
REVIEWED BY MIRANDA MENG
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is a story about courage and intergenerational love expressed at a young age. Hana Hashimoto is a little girl who challenges herself to play violin at the school talent show, after a brief encounter with violin while visiting her Ojiichan (grandfather) in Japan.
Hana’s brothers tease her because she has only been to three violin classes, so they feel there is no way she will perform well on the stage. Hana, however, shows determination and starts practicing in front of any audience she can find: her brothers, her parents, Jojo the dog, and—of course—a photo of her inspiration, Ojiichan.
Like any other girl growing up with anxiety and doubt in herself, Hana’s heart starts pounding when she finally stands in the spotlight on stage. Instead of the lustrous and eloquent timbre everyone’s expecting, Hana surprises the audience with her own style of violin, making the playful sounds of “lowing cows,” “squeaking mice,” and “croaking frogs” on the violin. The story ends with a bittersweet feeling, as Hana plays an old melody and wishes her grandfather could hear across the Pacific Ocean.
Simple but surprising, the message of persistence and self-determination in Hana Hashimoto is a nod to the spirit of Confucius. At the same time, author Chieri Uegaki shows young readers that real courage can also mean breaking social norms and finding your own ways to define success.
The intergenerational relationship between Hana and her grandfather in this book is an important and transcendent theme. To many, grandparents are very special people; they are often so far, yet so close, given the age, cultural, and even geographic gaps between the intergenerational family members. This idea touches my own heart, as I was raised by my a-po (grandma) as a child living in China.
The lyrical storytelling in Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is complemented by Qin Leung’s beautiful illustrations on glossy paper, which help to unfold the story in a gentle and charming manner. Her watercolour-style paintings add a hint of Miyazaki, where love, courage, and nostalgia are always the central theme.
With positive messages about the power of self determination and the bonds of intergenerational family expressed in a beautifully illustrated, sweet story, Chieri Uegaki and Qin Leng’s Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is a delightful read for both children and adults.
This review was featured in issue 19.3
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