PPBF Looks at Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin

PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) looks at Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin.

One afternoon, back when I was nine, I wandered up to the loft where my parents stored magazines, stacks of books, old toys, and furniture. While I rooted through an old trunk, I came across a long, peculiar-shaped case. I unlatched it and found an old violin. One of the four strings lay broken, countless frayed hairs on the bow made it unplayable, and a musty smell filled the case. But the violin…that elegant violin captivated me.

For those of you thinking it was a priceless Stradavarius, I’m sorry to disenchant you. However, the violin had merit being made by the German violin maker, Heinrich Theodore Heberlein Jr. (1843-1910)


My father had purchased the violin many years ago when he was in his early twenties with the dream that one day he would learn to play the instrument. After my father brought the beautiful instrument to a violin maker for repairs, I took over my father’s dream. With lessons over many years, I practiced until I was ready to join an orchestra. I loved wearing a long black skirt for concerts. I loved sitting, not in the audience facing the music, but on stage surrounded by the music. Bows gliding together across the strings. The conductor leading us with his baton, pulling from us the best music we were capable of playing. At the end of the concert, I stood with the orchestra as we bowed in appreciation to  the warm applause.

My love of the violin leads me to today’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) selection.

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss. Of course, when I saw the vibrant cover illustration of the violinist and read the title, I had to peek inside. And…one peek lead to in instant love and purchase.

Title – Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin – view on Amazon Here.

Written by – Lloyd Moss (1926-2013)

Illustrated by – Marjorie Priceman

Published by – Aladdin Paperbacks  edition 2000  (text and illustration copyright 1995)

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  music and learning about the instruments in an orchestra

Opening –

With mournful moan and silken tone,

Itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE.

gliding, sliding, high notes go low;


Amazon Review – The Caldecott Honor book, now in paperback!
With mournful moan and silken tone,
itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE…

Then a trumpet joins in to become a duet; add a French horn and voila! you have a trio — and on it goes until an entire orchestra is assembled on stage. Lloyd Moss’s irresistible rhymes and Marjorie Pricemans’s energetic illustrations make beautiful music together — a masterpiece that is the perfect introduction to musical instruments and musical groups, and a counting book that redefines the genre.

Why do I like this book? Musical instruments each have their own distinctive voice. Describing an instrument’s voice through words often falls flat to the actual sound. But when I read each stanza dedicated to a musical instrument, I found that Lloyd Moss demonstrates a “fine tuned” understanding of the particular sound each instrument produces and found perfect words to bring each one to life. And…offering the absolute, hands down, perfect accompaniment to the text, one of my very favorite illustrators, Marjorie Priceman, was chosen to create the art. Her style is expressive. Her illustrations burst with intense colors and freedom. Her lines are more fluid than cursive handwriting.

Learn about Lloyd Moss HERE. This is an incredible post about the author that includes the story of how this special book came to be.

Learn about Marjorie Priceman HERE.

Discussion with children – watch videos on your computer or check them out at the library of music performed by various solo instruments. Then, play a piece of classical music performed by an orchestra and see how many instruments children can recognize. And…

…ask if they can describe the sound each instrument makes in words.

DANCE TIME! – While listening to various musical pieces, make space in a room for a little creative “dance” time. Let children explore with their hands, arms, feet, legs, and bodies what direction the music takes them.

DRAWING TIME! -Spread out large sheets of paper, markers, and colored pencils or crayons. This time, while listening to expressive pieces of music, encourage children to show with lines, shapes, and squiggles how the music ‘looks’ to them if it were a picture.

If you know of other picture books that explore music, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. See you back here soon!

21 thoughts on “PPBF Looks at Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin

    • Carrie,
      After I learned to play the violin, my father, at the age of 55, studied violin making with a master violin maker in the city. Years later, when I studied music at the conservatory in college, I played one of my father’s violin in the orchestra. Then, to be able to test his violins for tonal quality, at the age of 70, my father took violin lessons. Clearly, it is NEVER to late to learn something. My dad used to say, “Retirement is what people should do after they die. If you’re breathing…do something.”

      P.S. Let me know how your violin lessons go.


    • When I read Lloyd Moss didn’t publish this book until he was 69, I was given great hope. Never, never quit believing or trying. This is an amazing book. I hope if you read it you will enjoy it. He highlights many instruments and has an amazing gift for describing them in an accessible way for children.


  1. That’s a wonderful violin story. I like how you described sitting surrounded by the music when playing in the orchestra. Sounds like an amazing experience! Have you tried writing a PB about playing the violin!?

    That first line of Zin! Zin! Zin! is perfect — so lyrical. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmmm. Write a PB about playing the violin… Hmmm… What a great idea! The wheels in my head are spinning with excitement over your suggestion! Many thanks, Gabi! They do say it’s best to write about what we know, and the violin has been an important instrument for me. What I didn’t write in this post is that my father, at the age of 55, learned to make violins by studying with a master violin maker in the city. Later, at the age of 70, my dad took violin lessons. It was on one of his most beautiful violins that I played in the orchestra in my college years.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, yes! I learnt violin too, and although I don’t play much, I’ve never given it up! I too have thoughts on PB about violining… let me know if you come up with something or want to bounce some ideas around or a critique!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Leslie, I’m looking at buying this book now… if it is not too much trouble, can you please tell me what the violin’s page says? Many thanks!

        I was delighted by this quote from another of his books, Music Is.
        If there never had been music,
        If it never did exist,
        What would life be without music?
        Think of what we would have missed!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, this is a good book. It only took me a brief moment after I looked at it at the bookstore to know I had to add it to my collection of beloved picture books. I’m glad you liked the activities I added. When I studied are in college, the instructor often played music to help free us.


    • Thanks for stopping by, Patricia! You’re going to love this book! Lloyd Moss did an exceptional job bringing each instrument to life. I was doubly excited when I saw Marjorie Priceman did the illustrations. I fell in love with her artistic style when I read The Bakeshop Ghost by Jacqueline K. Ogburn years ago, another fantastic story


    • Your niece plays cello, violin, base, and guitar??? She must be quite talented. Although they are all string instruments, the strings are different both by name and quantity and the instruments require a unique way of holding and playing them. Her concerts must be quite a gift.


  2. So glad you posted this Perfect Picture Book, Leslie. I don’t know how I missed this when it was first published & my now-grown, music-loving son was young. I’ve been playing around with a music-inspired MS for a while & think this will be a perfect mentor text. I loved your lead-in, too, and I look forward to reading your violin-inspired picture book soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind encouragement about my “future” music/violin PB manuscript. Those wheels are turning with ideas. I’m rather looking forward to the story I’m going to write, too! I love this book, Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin. If there were posters to go along with the various instruments highlighted in the text, I would frame them and cover my walls. The book is quite marvelous.

      Liked by 1 person

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