• Non-Fiction
  • Ada's Violin: the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Ada's Violin: the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay


A couple of reviews ago, I lamented my inability to keep up with the output of children's literature. So many gems gone unread. Today, I am mourning the loss of my news hound self. Once upon a time, I read a couple of newspapers practically cover-to-cover. Once upon a time, I listened to NPR so constantly, I often listened to segments two and three times as it recycled through the day. Once upon a time, I regularly watched not only nightly news, but sought out weekly news shows like 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday. Now, I skim my newspapers and audiobooks fill my driving time. And I hardly ever watch television so it's no surprise that I missed this.

And it's not a surprise that I did not know about Ada's Violin and might not have had I not won it along with every other book Christian Trimmer edited. Talk about overflowing with riches! Thanks again Christian!

Judy Freeman once, okay, many times, has said, "I learn so many interesting things from picture books!" "So true, Judy," says this "never too old for picture books" gal. I adore informational picture books. Well done ones present little nuggets of information to nibble on, ponder, wonder and inspire further reading. I adore this book. Each time I return to it, I love it more.

Ada lives with her sister in a slum that was built around a garbage dump. Garbage from the city of Asuncion, Paraguay. The residents of Caleura make their living by picking through the tons of garbage to collect anything that can be recycled. Ada and her sister attend school but she and her parents and grandmother worry about her future, especially as she reaches her teenage years. She sees hopeless teens joining gangs. When Favio Chavez posts a notice about free music lessons, Ada's grandmother signs them up without asking.

Ten children show up for the first class but Chavez has only six instruments. Unfortunately, that is not the only problem. He realizes that since the instruments cost as much as a house, they are not safe from theft so he devises a way to make the instruments out of recycled material with Nicolas Gomez  and Tito Romero. "They transformed oil drums into cellos, water pipes into flutes and packing crates into guitars!" Talk about ingenuity!

The students really had to commit. They had three hour lessons and since they had no classroom, they played outside, often in 100+ degree heat. The children were expected to practice at home. Ada would practice for two hours. Talk about grit!

The lessons went beyond music. Señor Chavez expect them to respect him, themselves and each other. Some dropped out but in time the Recycled Orchestra was born. The rest of the population benefited. "Gancheros trudging home from the landfill might lift their heads to hear the sounds of Ada's violin...or the strains of Bebi's cello... or the strum of Noélia's guitar. A symphony of sound helped to lift them beyond the heat, the stench and their aching backs."

The mixed media collages are absolutely perfect, vibrant hues, and bits of labels, newspaper and such to add texture, depth and interest. Sally Wern Comport managed to convey the deplorable living conditions along but also imbues her subjects with light and hope.

Back-matter includes an author's note, a color photograph of the orchestra and their instruments and websites and videos, which should definitely be shared with your students. These children play magnificently. The final page includes source notes, a quote from Margaret Mead, a photograph of some instruments up close and a note stating that Simon & Schuster is making a donation the to orchestra and an invitation for readers to do the same.

Ada's Violin is surely, a must-purchase title for all ages. Add the title to your #WNDB list and share widely.

40 pages    9781481430951    Ages 8-12

Recommended by:  Brenda Kahn, Library Media Specialist, New Jersey USA

See more of her recommendations:  http://proseandkahn.blogspot.com

User reviews

Have you read this book? We'd love to hear what you think. Click the button below to write your own review!