May 22 – National Buy a Musical Instrument Day


About the Holiday

Each year on May 22 we celebrate music and the personal relationship musicians have with their instruments. Some musical artists even consider their instrument such a friend or part of the family that they give them names. Whether you are just starting out on your journey with music or are a seasoned professional, today may be a good day to think about buying your first instrument or adding to your collection.

A Violin for Elva

Written by Mary Lyn Ray | Illustrated by Tricia Tusa


While out on a springtime jaunt, little Elva came upon a garden party. There were the sounds of voices and rustling clothes, but Elva heard none of this. Instead, her ears were trained on the music the violinist was playing. Later that night she told her mom and dad that she wanted a violin. She even said please, but they said no.

So Elva found violins elsewhere. She practiced with a tennis racquet and stick; she rehearsed with her toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. When she was called to the board in math class, she wrote more notes than numbers, and when she “should have been going to sleep, she was playing music only she could hear.” Years passed; she grew, made friends and pursued other activities. Soon she was an adult with a job, appointments, and meetings. “But if she saw a page tremulous with music, she remembered what she once had wanted.”


Image copyright Tricia Tusa, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of

She told herself she was too busy to learn to play the violin now, but she began borrowing records from the library. When she listened to them, she felt as if she “had picked up her violin again” and was playing in an orchestra or performing a solo. At the end of the record, Elva filled the silence and empty feeling with all the other things she had to do.

More years passed, and “Elva had many satisfactions and achievements,” but something was still missing. She told herself that she was too old now, “but more and more she kept imagining what might have been—” Then one day she took some money, went to the store, and bought “a shiny, fragile, varnished violin.”  She hugged it tightly on the way home and once there—without even taking off her coat—she removed it from its case, placed it under her chin, and “pushed the bow across a string.” The violin squeeeked and squeeeeeeeeeeked. But then “she drew the bow back toward her—and the string sang.”


Image copyright Tricia Tusa, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of

She tried other strings without success, but that one, clear note encouraged her. “‘I will improve,’ she said. But she didn’t” Playing the violin was difficult; she had to hold the bow just right, land on the correct notes, and figure out the fingering for sharps and flats. It was all so confusing that Elva put away her violin.

Then one day she read that “Madame Josephina was accepting beginning students.” Again, Elva took some money and signed up for lessons. Twice a week Elva went to Madame Josephina’s house, and on the days in between, she practiced. At the end of the year, there was a recital. Elva was nervous as she took the stage with the other students. But when she drew the bow across her violin’s strings, Elva realized she “was making music.” That night at home she played her piece again and again. “At last, Elva kissed her bow and went to bed, imagining all the tomorrows. And all the music there was to make.”


Image copyright Tricia Tusa, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of

Mary Lyn Ray’s story of a little girl whose lifelong love of the violin is only satisfied in old age reveals to readers that while they may grow and change throughout the years, childhood passions often remain strong. While they may be rejected or forgotten for one reason or another, these interests sometimes indirectly guide career choices or reappear when the time is right for them to be fulfilled. Although it is a violin that captures Elva’s heart, Ray could have chosen from a long list of creative, daring, or professional pursuits that niggle at one’s brain to be acknowledged and expressed. A Violin for Elva offers encouragement and inspiration not only for those who feel that it’s too late to achieve their dreams but for those struggling to overcome the fear of trying.

Tricia Tusa’s watercolor and ink illustrations are as light and graceful as the music that captivates Elva. In lovely vignettes, a garden-party attendee wears an enormous flower hat, Elva’s pet cat swipes a paw at her imaginary music, Elva stops on her way to work to admire a street musician, and Elva hugs her dog close while having tea in sunny window. When Elva finally buys her own violin, all the hustle and bustle of her life stops for a moment and love fills the page as she hugs the instrument while her dog leans affectionately against her leg and both are bathed in a glorious spotlight. Seeing Elva on stage at her first recital surrounded by children half her size, readers will understand that true love never fades and is always attainable.

Ages 4 – 7 and up (adults will also appreciate the book’s message)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 | ISBN 978-0152254834

Discover more about Mary Lyn Ray and her books on her website!

You’ll find a gallery of art work by Tricia Tusa on her website!

National Buy a Musical Instrument Day Activity


I Love Music! Word Search Puzzle


There’s an orchestra of instruments in this printable I Love Music! Word Search Puzzle. Can you find all eighteen different instruments? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review