Hood, Susan. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. illus. by Sally Wern Comport. 40p. photos. websites. S. & S. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430951.
Gr 2-5 –Hood tells the story of a real child growing up in an actual place—Cateura—a community of people who live and feed themselves by picking through the tons of trash generated by the capital city of Asunción, Paraguay, and salvaging items to recycle and sell. Despite her bleak surroundings, Ada Ríos liked to imagine each garbage truck was “a box of surprises. One never knew what might be inside.” When Ada was 11, a man named Favio Chávez started to hold music classes for the local young people. Since there weren’t enough instruments to go around and they were too precious for the kids to take them home to practice, the project seemed doomed to be short-lived. Watching the children play amid the rubble gave Señor Chávez an idea. He enlisted the help of the gancheros (recyclers), and they fashioned cellos from oil drums, flutes out of water pipes, and guitars from packing crates. Ada chose a violin made from an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates. Through hard work and long hours of practice over time, she and the rest of the ragtag crew of kids formed the Recycled Orchestra, and the rest is history, as they’ve grown and made a name for themselves internationally. Comport’s mixed-media collages are nothing short of brilliant as she plays with light and dark throughout. The spreads capture the look and feel of the cramped and stinking landfill, the oppressive heat, and the hardscrabble lives of the residents. They also convey the resourcefulness and warmth of the families and the aspirations of the children. The scenes of the kids embracing their instruments and sharing their joy at making music are absolutely transcendent. “With her violin, Ada could close her eyes and imagine a different life. She could soar on the high, bright, bittersweet notes to a place far away. She could be who she was meant to be.” VERDICT A virtuoso piece of nonfiction, gloriously told and illustrated. School Library Journal
This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2016 issue.