Kirkus Reviews QR Code


A Story of Yo-Yo Ma

by Joanna Ho ; illustrated by Teresa Martínez

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-06-299454-7
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Yo-Yo Ma performed Bach’s cello suites at the U.S.–Mexico border in Laredo, Texas, in 2019.

Through poetic and reverent language, Ho uses this performance as a keyhole to introduce readers to Ma’s impressive career, with a focus on how he “challenges convention and weaves worlds together” through music. Extensive backmatter gives informative context for such global initiatives, such as the Silk Road Ensemble, which has brought together strangers from different cultures to play music, and the Bach Project, which the titular concert was part of. Ho extends the theme of global unity when she describes Petunia, his beloved cello, which embodies materials from Italy, Brazil, Mongolia, India, and West Africa. Martinez’s gentle illustrations match Ho’s inspired tone with sweeping, soft strokes in welcoming, warm tones. A visual throughline of music notes appears on almost every page, conveying the magic that music, even while unseen, can be felt by all. The wraparound cover illustration and final double-page spread both depict lines of adults and children of various ages and racial presentations holding hands across the border, beautifully underscoring the book’s theme of unity through music. Elementary school teachers and parents of school-age children searching for examples of people connecting across borders and differences will delight in this sweet introduction—an excellent companion to Mitali Perkins and Sara Palacios’ Between Us and Abuela (2019). (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Hopeful and lovely. (resources, author’s note) (Informational picture book. 5-8)