Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood
Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
Bluebonnet Author Site (with author and illustrator interviews, recycled orchestra activities, and links to videos of the Recycled Orchestra’s concerts)
“Ada Rios grew up in a town made of trash.”
If that first line doesn’t get your or your kids’ attention, I don’t know what will.
There is a group of kids in Paraguay that live in, for, and because of trash. Daily life revolves around picking useful and saleable things from the heaps of trash dumped near their homes every day. Although the kids do attend school, they are usually told that the best they can hope for is to also become trash collectors. A few of these kids, and one amazing music teacher, decided that there had to be something else, and that art, even in a literal pile of garbage, was worth creating and maintaining. With the help of their families and teacher, the kids collected items from the garbage and made instruments. Real instruments that they have crafted and perfected to play each note perfectly on key. Even though finding the time and energy to not just make the instruments but then learn to play them, and then learn to play big musical pieces, was difficult, they persisted. Now the Recycled Orchestra tours the world and has even played with Metallica and Stevie Wonder. The money the Recycled Orchestra earns goes back to help pull their families out of slum living, and there are plans to help other kids living in landfills around the world.
The illustrations in Ada’s Violin are collage-style, to mimic the theme of making something from pieces of other things, and they really are beautiful.
This story is beyond inspiring. The kids in Cateura, Paraguay, made something from next to nothing, and they never gave up, despite having every reason to. Creating and making music gave them a sense of importance, and a sense of belonging in a world that hadn’t been very kind to them. It’s a beautiful narrative and a beautiful book. This is such an important story, and I hope more people learn about the Recycled Orchestra because of it. If you can’t get to the book, or want to know more about them RIGHT NOW, go check out all the videos of the Recycled Orchestra playing in concert. They are extremely talented, and their homemade instruments are amazing!
Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton Illustrated by Don Tate
Bluebonnet Author Site (with an author interview, lots of cool information, and fun projects for kids related to the book)
This Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee is the first book I read from the list and it is so good! Do you know who invented the Super Soaker? I didn’t either, until I read this book. Chris Barton tells the story of a kid who wanted to be an inventor and actually grew up to be one, despite living through some difficulties that would get the best of us, including the racially-charged 1960s. His claim to fame may be the Super Soaker (and my 10-year-old self will always think that’s his coolest invention), but Lonnie Johnson also worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the United States Air Force. After reading this book (which has great illustrations as well), I couldn’t believe I had never heard of Johnson, and I immediately wanted to know more. (And as a bonus, both of my kids were riveted by the entire book, couldn’t believe the things he’d invented, and immediately started talking about what they wanted to invent.) I think any kid, or adult, would enjoy this book, and especially kids who enjoy building with Legos or like to invent things.[Top]
The Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees for 2017-2018 are here! (They were actually here in November, but I’m just now getting around to them . . .) The Texas Bluebonnet Award (click HERE for the official website) is one of my favorites because kids vote for the winner. Each year, a selection committee chooses 20 books based on suggestions from librarians, kids, parents, and teachers, and the official list is announced at the Texas Book Festival in Austin. Throughout the year, eligible students in grades 3-6 must read (if they want to vote) at least 5 books, and then they vote for their favorite! Last year’s winner was Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.
If you want to check out the Bluebonnet Award website, it is HERE. Even if you’re not in Texas, you might get some good ideas for your or your kid’s next book. If you go HERE, you can see book trailers for each nominee, or go to the Texas Bluebonnet Award YouTube channel.
I love this award for two reasons. One, anything that encourages and rewards authors, especially authors of quality children’s books, is worth supporting. Two, this award encourages reading for kids. I volunteer at my kids’ school library, and every year I’ve managed to be there when the wonderful librarian announces the books to a few classes and shows them the book trailers. The kids are incredibly enthusiastic, many of them vowing to read all 20 books, and more than a few jumping up and down with excitement. If you didn’t know what was going on, you might think the librarian had announced that summer had come early this year and class was cancelled. All kids should be that excited about reading!
My goal is to fit in the 20 books by the end of the summer. Some of the books are shorter picture books, some are longer chapter novels, and all of them look interesting. I’ll post mini reviews here of each book as I read them. If you want to keep up with my reviews of these books, just select the Texas Bluebonnet Award category from the dropdown menu over on the right!
2016 Winner–Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
–Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood
–The Best Man by Richard Peck
–Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson
–The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
–The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson
–The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg
–In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall
–The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd
–The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier
–Little Cat’s Luck by Marion Dane Bauer
–Lola Levine: Drama Queen by Monica Brown
–The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown by Crystal Allen
–Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Allison McGhee
–The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh
–Soar by Joan Bauer
–Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
–The Storyteller by Evan Turk
–Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
–Unidentified Suburban Objects by Mike Jung
–Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton[Top]