Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Reviewed by Vickie LeCroy
By Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 40 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 4–8.
This is an excellent true story about hope, ingenuity, and determination. Comport’s illustrations are quirky and evocative to help the young reader better understand the circumstances of the story. Ada lives in a large slum of 20,000 folks, located near a large landfill in Cateura, Paraguay. Many of the slum’s residents eke out a living by picking through the garbage to find items to sell and/or recycle.
Generations of Ada’s family made their living from the garbage dump, and their circumstances might have turned out to be another tragic story of a life in poverty. Enter Favio Chávez, an environmental engineer at the landfill who also happened to be a musician. Chávez offered free music lessons to the children of Cateura. But money is scarce in Cateura, and so were musical instruments. With ingenuity and determination to help the children, several men helped to improvise instruments from things found in the landfill. Ada’s violin was made from “an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates. Worthless to thieves, it was invaluable to her.” She practiced diligently and began teaching younger children.
Under the engineer’s tutelage, the children of Cateura playing improvised instruments evolved into an orchestra. They became a sensation and toured the world performing and inspiring others. Says Chávez, “The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” As a result, similar orchestras have been started at other landfill cities around the world. An inspiring story of perseverance, creativity, and the joy of music, Ada’s Violin offers a terrific opportunity for folks young and old to see the power of music, creativity, and determination. There are links listed in the book to websites where you can see and hear the orchestra and learn more about this remarkable story.