A while back, I watched a segment on 60 Minutes about the Recycled Orchestra, an orchestra made up of young people from Cateura, Paraguay, who play instruments built out of the trash on which the town is built. It was an unbelievably compelling piece, one that made me look at the garbage littering New York City and my own consumption very differently. Soon after, I called super agent Brenda Bowen to see if she had anyone who could do the story justice in the picture book format. Brenda recommended the great Susan Hood, and I'm so glad she did. Susan threw herself into the project, contacting the key players at the Recycled Orchestra and establishing a trusting relationship with them. She also reached out to the producers of the 60 Minutes piece and the folks behind the beautiful Landfill Harmonic, a documentary about the Recycled Orchestra currently doing the festival circuit. After all her careful research, she crafted a gorgeous manuscript that captures the spirit of the Orchestra's mission.
Armed with the manuscript, I then emailed the astonishing Sally Wern Comport, with whom I'd worked on Love Will See You Through, in hopes that she'd connect with the material. Happily...she did! She just delivered sketches of the book, and they are beyond amazing. The way she depicts the kids in the group, the town, the heat, THE INSTRUMENTS--I can't wait to show you.
Ada's Violin comes out in Spring 2016.
Here's the official press release in case you feel like reading more:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SIMON & SCHUSTER BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS TO PUBLISH PICTURE BOOK BASED ON THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE PARAGUAYAN RECYCLED ORCHESTRA
New York, NY, March 18¾Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers announced today that it will publish Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, the official picture book detailing the true story of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, Paraguay. The book will be published on March 15, 2016, and in honor of its publication, Simon & Schuster will make a donation to the Recycled Orchestra.
Profiled on 60 Minutes and in numerous national publications, the orchestra is also the subject of a documentary, The Landfill Harmonic, which will have its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 18, 2015, and its East Coast premiere on March 21, 2015, at the New York Children’s Film Festival. The story unfolds through the eyes of Ada Ríos, a member since the orchestra’s inception, who had long dreamed of playing an instrument. In her small, poor town built on a landfill, doing so was never an option, until a local engineer, Favio Chávez, had an ingenious idea: What if he turned some of the garbage—the town’s only resource—into instruments? Using scraps of dirty oilcans, jars, wood, forks, and other junk in the Cateura landfill, he and other locals built beautiful musical instruments—violins, flutes, cellos, drums . . . all made from trash.
From this ingenuity, the Recycled Orchestra was formed, with the local children as its members learning and performing Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. As the children fine-tuned their skills, they started to garner attention. Ada and her fellow members have now played concerts to packed audiences throughout their home country, South America, and the world.
Author Susan Hood, who has written dozens of books for children, worked directly with the Recycled Orchestra to craft the manuscript, uncovering never-before-heard details. She plans to donate a portion of her earnings from sales of the book to the Orchestra. Sally Wern Comport, who most recently illustrated Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs, will provide the art.
“It seems to me that the publishing of the book is something very important, as it projects our story beyond a determined moment,” says Favio Chávez. “This book will be a testimony and a legacy of what we have done.” Ada Ríos, now sixteen and a first violinist, adds, “Music breaks social barriers. I hope this book will help more people understand that somewhere in the world exist children and young people of limited means who aspire to get ahead.”
“The Recycled Orchestra and its founders and members have so much to teach us,” says Christian Trimmer, Senior Editor, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. “Ada’s Violin is an inspiring story that will spread their message of innovation and community.”
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers retains world rights, all languages, for the text and illustrations.