Cover of "Ada's Violin" showing an orchestra standing on a trash heap. Close up of a girl playing a violin made of old metal cans.“Ada Rios grew up in a town made of trash.”

This story tells what happened just a few years ago when an amateur musician offered to teach the children of Paraguayan trash-pickers how to play instruments. He had some guitars and violins, but not enough for Ada and all the interested children.

The parents, who spent their days combing through the landfill for items they could recycle for cash, started making instruments for their children.

They transformed oil drums into cellos, water pipes into flutes, and packing crates into guitars…a violin made from an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates.

And with those homemade instruments, their children began to perform, eventually touring the world and playing with international stars, like the group Metallica.

The narrative voice in this book is straightforward, but the precise and vivid details make the story leap to life. The art–like the instruments!–is assembled. They are collages of paint, acrylic glaze, and digital elements.

I was fascinated by the story and happy to find a hefty back matter, including a photo of the children holding their homemade instruments and links to websites about their activities, including this wonderful trailer to a movie about the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay.

So far, this is among my favorite nonfiction picture books of the year, and I would think there would be lots of curriculum connections with its focus on music and recycling, but I haven’t seen much buzz about it. I’m interested in what others have to say about it!

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Simon & Schuster: 2016.

Children around a globe.


I participate in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, sponsored by Kid Lit Frenzy.