Musically gifted, nine year old Anna Maria’s life changes forever after her father’s sudden death. It is the year 1715 and Anna Maria is sent to the Pietà, a convent, orphange and music school for orphaned and abandoned girls located in Venice, Italy. Scared and alone, Anna Maria leaves everything that is dear to her except for a golden wood violin that her papa had made her. With this violin, she finds solace. As she plays she can hear Papa’s voice. This comes to a halt when her violin is stolen by one of the girls in the orphanage. It is through the help of her new music teacher, the famous Don Vivaldi that Anna learns forgiveness, love and new friendships.
Reluctant readers will not be able to put this book down. Written in large print with large line spacing, and simple sentences, children will enjoy reading a story about someone their own age. Paragraphs are short and chapters are full of mystery and action. The illustrations help the reader to connect to characters as well as enhance their understanding of the time period.
Contributed by Deborah Fagnan, , Librarian, St. John’s Academy, Hillsdale, NJ
Janice Shefelman provides us with yet another wonderful historical fiction book for grades 3 – 5. The setting of this story takes place in 18th century, Venice, Italy. After the death of Anna Maria’s father, she is sent to live in an orphanage in Venice. The story provides an excellent balance of fact with fiction. Not overwhelmed by facts, but the author provides enough facts for the reader to get a clear understanding of the world in which Anna Maria, an eight year old girl, lived in. It is a tender story, in which the author is able to convey the values and norms of the culture of this time period. The author provides a Glossary and Historical Notes on the setting of the story and depicts the true life of one of the characters found in the story, Antonio Vivaldi. The theme provides insight and understanding of the feelings of the characters and the important lessons of kindness and forgiveness.
Robert Papp’s simple pen and ink illustrations are aesthetically appealing and helps students understand the mood of the characters and enhance children’s knowledge of the time period.
Any school librarian or classroom teacher will embrace Anna Maria’s Gift as it provides a great introduction to this genre of literary writing. The book can be used across the curriculum to teach both social studies and information skill concepts. The writing is simple with short chapters and the plot is easy to follow. The book will be well received by girls including reluctant readers.
Contributed by: Deborah Fagnan, Librarian, St. John’s Academy, Hillsdale, NJ