Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin

by Tracy Newman
Grade K-3


Before becoming one of the greatest violinists of all time, Itzhak Perlman was simply a boy who loved music. Raised by a poor immigrant family in a tiny Tel Aviv apartment, baby Itzhak was transformed by the sounds from his family’s kitchen radio. The rich melodies and vibrant rhythms spoke to him like magic, filling his mind with vivid rainbows of color. After surviving polio and begging his parents for a real instrument, Itzhak threw his heart and soul into playing the violin. Through dedication, perseverance, and hard work, Itzak honed his extraordinary gift. When he performed on the Ed Sullivan Show at only 13, audiences around the world were mesmerized by the warmth, joy, and passion in every note.

Discussion questions from SOMN

  • Itzak shows a lot of perseverance. What does it mean to persevere?
  • Do you think his love of music helped Itzak recover after having polio?
  • What changes do Itzak’s parents make to support him in the book?
  • What were some obstacles to Itzak becoming a professional violinist? What were some of his solutions?
  • Itzak feels a lot of different emotions when he hears music. What are some of the feelings he had in the book? What are some of the feelings you have had while listening to music? Combine this question with the listening activity below.

Classroom activities from SOMN

  • Watch this video from Sesame Street on Easy and Hard with Itzak Perlman.
  • Watch this video from Itzak’s first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show in the US.
  • Itzak sees colors when he hears music. This is called synesthesia. Watch this video and this video as a class to learn more. Be sure to use the 360 option in the second video for full effect.
  • Listen to different classical music excerpts as a class and talk about how the music makes you feel.