Book Review: Petar's Song

Reading Level

Ages 4-8

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Some books tell us a simple story that also resonates with complex themes. Petar's Song, by Pratima Mitchell, is one of those books.

On the surface, it is the story of a young boy who plays his violin to make people amidst a war that has driven them from their homes. (The author, by the way, never mentions the war; the intent might have been to make the events timeless and placeless, but it also managed to be distracting.) Adults and children alike find that hearing young Petar play songs from their homeland gives them hope for the future.

But this simple story also carries with it a complex message: In times of adversity, a people who stick together and keep alive their hopes and dreams can do anything, bear anything, endure anything. The people from Petar's village were together to hear his song, which inspired them to sing and dance despite the worst of conditions, only because they determined to stay together. They would not separate.

The story also relates how one person, no matter how small or what his or her skill set, can make a difference in people's lives. Petar is young. He can't fight, like his father and other men. He is rather shy, so he doesn't have public-speaking skills, to be able to lead people. What he does have is the gift of music: He knows how to play the violin. And when things are at their worst, Petar does what he does best: He plays the violin. He does what he can to help improve the situation.

Get this little book, enjoy the wonderful illustrations by Caroline Binch, and be sure to read it at least twice: once to get the plot and at least once more to catch the subtleties in the words and pictures chosen.

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