Ada’s Violin

Ada’s Violin
by Susan Hood

Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Mike High Reading interview with Susan Hood:

Kid Lit Frenzy interview with Susan Hood:

5 questions with Susan Hood:

Writing and Illustrating with Susan Hood:

Watch. Connect. Read.-An Interview with Susan Hood:

Two Writing Teachers-An Interview with Susan Hood:

Susan Hood homepage:

Illustrator Information:

Bio of Sally Wern Comport:

Shannon Associates LLC-Sally Wern Comport:

Simon & Schuster-Sally Wern Comport:

Truly amazing women-Sally Wern Comport:

Activities & Resources:

Book guide created by Susan Hood:

All about Paraguay video for kids (scroll down until you get to the video)(8:6):

National Geographic video on Paraguay shaman (good pictures) (2:22):

Ducksters facts on Paraguay:


Look at all the photos on the website below. Check out the instruments. Listen to some of the videos. The website is in Spanish; however the pictures and music speak for themselves.

The recycled orchestra homepage:

The trash trucks dumps 1,500 tons of trash a day. How much do they dump in a week? Month? Year? Convert your answers to pounds.

Using Google Maps find Ana’s town in Paraguay. Plot all the places Ana and her orchestra travel for their concerts. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, England, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Palestine, Spain, The U.S.A.

Listen to music from the radio or a CD and pick out the different instruments. How many different instruments do you hear? Can you name them?

Listen to Ada’s Orchestra

Landfill Harmonic  The Recycled Orchestra live performace (8:54):

Paraguay’s orchestra plays from instruments made from trash (1:26):

Children’s Orchestra Play instruments made from trash (2:49):

60 Minutes shows how garbage is transforming lives in Paraguayan town:

MakerSpace Activities:

Have students invent a brand new instrument using objects from their homes and recycled items.

Ada’s city was built on trash. Build a model city using recycled items. Build something useful for your home with recycled items.

Make multicultural instruments from recycled materials:

5 ways to make a musical instrument:

Making a musical instrument from a pop bottle (6:55):

How to make a paper flute (4:24):

How to make a tom tom (2:52):

How to make a recorder from a carrot (2:15):

Musical instruments from rubber bands (3:30):

Recycled crafts from water bottles:

Recycled crafts from Christmas leftovers:

659 crafts from recyclable items:

Discussion Questions:

What would it be like to live in a town made completely of trash?

If cardboard sells for 5 cents a pound and plastic for 10 cents a pound how many pounds would you need to buy a hamburger at McDonalds? Would you collect cardboard or plastic or both? Which would be easier to carry?

Ada liked to imagine “each truck was a ‘box of surprises’”. What do you think you might find in the trash dump? Do you think people mean to throw away jewelry? Have you ever thrown something good away by accident? How did you feel?

If you were desperate would you dig in the trash for food, or things to sell? How would you feel about this? How would this affect your pride?

Ada grew up listening to the rock ‘n’ roll songs from the 1960’s. What music have you grown up with? What do your parents listen to?

Ada only sings when no one is listening. What does this tell you about Ada?

Ada’s dad told stories and sang songs of great musicians. What musician do you think is great and you would like to tell your children about? Why did you choose this musician?

The teenagers in the alleys “grumbled about life in the landfill looming ahead”. They felt helpless and turned to gangs and fights. Have you ever felt hopeless? What kept you from gangs and fights? What did you do instead?

Grandma signed her granddaughters up for music lessons without asking them first. Do you think she knew they would want to learn music? Why or why not? Have you ever been signed up for something and did not like it? Explain.

How would you feel if there were not enough instruments to go around? Would you grab and push for one? Why or why not?

A violin in Paraguay is worth more than a house. How would you get a violin home without being robbed? How do you take something valuable from one place to another when you are walking?

Ada’s violin is made from discarded materials. Why would it be worthless to thieves? Why is it valuable to Ada? Have you ever treasured something that no one else sees as valuable? What made it valuable to you?

The group practiced outside three hours at a time in the rain and heat. Have you ever been that dedicated to something? What was it?

Mr. Chavez says “playing an instrument is a process. It doesn’t matter if one is rich or poor, ugly, fast, thin-you cannot learn to play an instrument overnight.” What other hobbies or things require dedication?

Mr. Chavez taught the children to respect themselves and others. He taught them manners. Why? Was this his job?

Mr. Chavez says “ be dedicated when you commit to something.” Is it possible to be dedicated and not committed? Explain.

“A symphony of sound helped to lift the workers beyond the het, the stench, and their aching backs.” How does music do this? What else can do this besides music?

“When Ada plays she imagines a different life. She could be who she was meant to be” Who do you think she thinks she was meant to be? Who do you think you are meant to by and why?

“As Ada’s skill grew so did her confidence. Once timid, she now took center stage playing solos”. What caused this change? Tell of a time when you were shy and how you got over it.

Ada and the orchestra have performed all over the world. They “flew on their first airplane, stayed in their first hotel, swam in the ocean, sampled their first pastries and pineapple, and saw sights they never imagined.” What do you think it would be like to live in a trash dump and then have all these first experiences? Would you be overwhelmed? How would you describe cake and sweets to someone who had never eaten a dessert? What first experience would you like to have and why?

Ada has stage fright when she has to play before more than thirty-five thousand people. What advice would you give to help her?

Favio Chavez says “Music allowed us to connect with other people. Without even speaking the language, we understand each other.”  Explain how this works.

The orchestra played for the pope. If you could perform for someone special who would you chose and why?

Book Talk Teasers:

Have students listen to one of the videos above of The Landfill Harmonic Orchestra. Do not show the video. Ask students what instruments they hear. Then tell them the instruments are made from trash. Then read the story about how these instruments came to be.

Read Alikes:

Inspiring, Picture books for children, Illustrations that are ‘Inventive:

Alemagna, Beatrice. What is a child? From the bestselling author of A Lion in Paris comes this beautifully illustrated celebration of what makes each child unique. Through bold and sensitively observed portraits and a thought-provoking text, Beatrice Alemagna inspires children, and adults reading with them, to consider their own identity. Destined to become a classic, What Is a Child? is a must-have for every school, library, and bedside table. (NoveList)

Calle, Juan. Good dream, bad dream. “A father comforts his restive son by telling him that people all over the world have imagined that heroes can help turn their bad dreams into good ones (with bilingual Spanish translation)”–. (NoveList)

Deacon, Alexis. I am Henry Finch. Living on a big block where the other finches make such a racket that nobody can hear themselves think, a little bird with big ambitions sees an opportunity for greatness that has unexpected consequences. (NoveList)

Eulate, Ana A. de. Walking Eagle. A Comanche boy named Walking Eagle tells tales without words, using his hands, his face, his smile, and his eyes to communicate with animals and the people of other tribes that he meets on his journey. (NoveList)

Flyte, Min. Box. A group of toddlers imagine all the adventures they could go on using boxes. (NoveList)

Ruurs, Margriet. Stepping stones. In this dual-language picture book (English and Arabic) a young girl and her family are forced to flee their once-peaceful village to escape the civil war and make their way toward safety in Europe. (NoveList)

Sanabria, Jose. As time went by. A story of a steamship as time passes and it becomes abandoned, until one day a group of villagers who have no place to go rebuild it. (NoveList)

Inspiring, and subject ‘Hope’:

Bridges, Shirin Yim. Ruby’s wish. In China, at a time when few girls are taught to read or write, Ruby dreams of going to the university with her brothers and male cousins. (NoveList)

Mitchell, Margaree King. Uncle Jed’s barbershop. Despite serious obstacles and setbacks Sarah Jean’s Uncle Jed, the only Black barber in the county, pursues his dream of saving enough money to open his own barbershop. (NoveList)

Thompson, Laurie Ann. Emmanuel’s dream: the true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. The story of a West African youth who pursued an education, helped support his family, and became a record-setting cyclist in spite of a disability traces his ongoing achievements as an activist. (NoveList)

Inspiring, Hope and recycling:

Elovitz, Linda. Rainbow weaver/Tejedora del arcoris. Ixchel, a young Mayan girl who is not allowed to use her mother’s thread to weave, exercises her ingenuity and repurposes plastic bags to create colorful weavings. Includes glossary and author’s note. (NoveList)

Paul, Miranda. One plastic bag. Tells the story of a Gambian woman who came up with a way to recycle the plastic bags that had littered the landscape in her nation, an act that saved the environment and transformed her community. (NoveList)

Slade, Suzanne. The soda bottle school: a true story about recycling, teamwork, and one crazy idea. In a small Guatemalan village with too much trash and in need of a larger school, a teacher gets an idea to build a school using the recycled trash, inspiring the whole community and others to join in. (NoveList)

Ecofiction, Picture Books, Social Issues

Bang, Molly. Common ground: the water, earth, and air we share. Imagines a village in which there are too many people consuming shared resources and discusses the challenge of handling our world’s environment safely. (NoveList)

Kostecki-Shaw, Jenny Sue. Luna and me: the true story of a girl who lived in a tree to save a forest. “Social activism combines with environmentalism in this picture book bio of Julia Butterfly Hill and Luna, the thousand-year-old redwood tree whose life she saved”–. (NoveList)

Johnson, Jen Cullerton. Wangari’s trees of peace: a true story from Africa. This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change. (NoveList)

McDaniel, Jequita Potts. Mardy Murie did!: grandmother of conservation. Introduces Mardy Murie’s life of wilderness preservation, which included helping to create Grand Teton National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and encourages caring for the land and the trees and the air, as Mardy Murie did. (NoveList)

Wiley, Thom. Big Earth, little me. Large illustration, fun flaps, and simple verse are brought together in this instructional guide to the environment designed to teach kids what they can do to help make the world a better place, including recycling paper, conserving water, and saving energy by turning off lights. (NoveList)

Winter, Jeanette. Wangari’s trees of peace: a true story from Africa. This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change. (NoveList)

Crafts, Recycling:

Martin, Laura C. Recycled crafts box: sock puppets, cardboard castles, bottle bugs & 37 more Earth-friendly projects & activities you can create. Discusses recycling and provides information and instructions for making art projects from a variety of recycled materials. (NoveList)

Book Reviews:

Horn Book

Hood, Susan Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay.
40 pp. Simon (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing) 2016. ISBN 978-1-4814-3095-1 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-3096-8
(3) K–3 Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Children living in destitution on a landfill in Paraguay are offered music lessons by environmental engineer Señor Chavez. Since “it wasn’t safe” to have expensive instruments, Chavez fashions instruments out of trash; the kids’ “Recycled Orchestra” goes on to international acclaim. Comport combines many techniques to create gorgeous, layered art that captures this remarkable, inspiring true story’s essence.  An author’s note adds details. Websites.  From the Fall 2016 issue of The Horn Book Guide.   Reprinted from The Horn Book Guide by permission of The Horn Book, Inc.,

School Library Journal                                                                                                                                  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.-Luann Toth, School Library Journal © Copyright 2016.   Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal,  Copyright 2016.

Booklist (March 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 14))

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay.   Hood, Susan (author). Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. May 2016. 40p. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, $17.99 (9781481430951). Grades 1-3. 784.206. REVIEW. First published March 15, 2016 (Booklist).

Cateura, a town built on a landfill in Paraguay, one of the poorest areas of South America, is where Ada Ríos lives. Most people in the town spend their days searching through the landfill for things that can be sold, and Ada is no different, until the day a man named Favio Chávez offers to start teaching music classes to the children of the neighborhood. There aren’t enough instruments to go around, so he improvises, building drums and violins out of objects he finds in the landfill. Ada chooses a violin, and the hodgepodge group of kids slowly becomes an orchestra, eventually gaining confidence and fame, touring around the world. The mixed-media collages are a particular effective medium for this true story, layering images of Ada and the orchestra over the landfill. The nuances of the subject may strike a stronger chord with adults rather than children, but the interesting visuals and the underlying message of hope and perseverance should help this find an audience. — Maggie Reagan.  Used with the permission of Booklist.