The Bravest Man in the World

by Patricia Polacco (Author) Patricia Polacco (Illustrator)

The Bravest Man in the World
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

From master storyteller Patricia Polacco comes the tragic and beautiful story inspired by Wallace Hartley--the musician who played with his band to calm the passengers of the Titanic as the ship sank.

One afternoon, Jonathan Harker Weeks didn't feel like practicing the piano. So his grandfather decided to tell him a story to show how much of an impact music can have. When he was a child growing up poor in Ireland, his mother made sure he learned to play the fiddle, despite their challenges.

After his mother passed away and he was on his own, Jonathan's grandfather fell asleep hiding in a mail sack and was taken to a ship. When he woke up, he realized he was on the Titanic on its maiden voyage, and it was there that he met Wallace Hartley and Mrs. Weeks, a kind man and woman who took him in. Then one night, the majestic ship hit an iceberg. He and Mrs. Weeks were put on a lifeboat--and Mr. Hartley and his band bravely continued to play to calm the crew and passengers.

The story of Wallace Hartley is true and he is known throughout the world as a hero. The New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of The Keeping Quilt Patricia Polacco offers this stunning and heartbreaking picture book to celebrate the memory and bravery of a single man who used the power of music to comfort thousands of people during a catastrophic situation.

Publishers Weekly

Polacco (Holes in the Sky) meshes fact and fiction in a lengthy, emotion-steeped story that opens seven decades after the sinking of the Titanic, as a fictitious survivor tells his grandson about the horrific event. Jonathan is a nine-year-old orphan living in "the slums of Ireland" when thugs grab and destroy his beloved fiddle after his mother's death. Escaping to a warehouse, he hides in a mailbag that's waiting to be loaded onto the doomed ocean liner. On board, the accidental stowaway is cared for in part by Wallace Hartley, a real-life violinist in the ship's band, who gives Jonathan violin lessons and arranges to have him perform for arts patron John Jacob Astor. Polacco's crisp pictures of elegantly clad passengers listening to the young violinist give way to pale, blurred images of the panicked scramble to lifeboats as the Titanic sinks and an anguished Jonathan bids farewell to Hartley, who remains on deck, stoically playing his violin. The tale ends on an equally chilling note, with a photo of Hartley's mysteriously recovered violin, identified by an engraved silver stave attached to the instrument, a gift from his fiancée. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco is the prolific author and illustrator of over fifty picture books, and has received over 75 awards and honors for her work. She is also an energetic and enthusiastic public speaker--she visits over 100 classrooms every year. She lives in Union City, Michigan.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2019

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