From School Library Journal
Grade 3–5—A tender story about love and loss. Anna Maria, the nine-year-old daughter of a gifted violin maker, is sent to live and study at the Pietà, an orphanage in Venice, after her father dies. The violin prodigy flourishes under the tutelage of maestro Antonio Vivaldi but suffers a devastating blow when a jealous classmate throws her precious violin into a canal. What follows is a compelling lesson in selflessness and forgiveness. Shefelman's style is light, simple, and pleasing, and she has placed a cast of likable characters in a lovely setting. There is a brief glossary of musical and religious terms as well as a closing note about the actual Pietà and Vivaldi's stint as an instructor there, making this a good cross-curricular tool in addition to an engaging read.—Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR
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Like Emily Arnold McCully's picture book The Orphan Singer (2001) and Pat Lowery Collins' young-adult novel HiddenVoices(2009), this illustrated chapter book is set in the eighteenth-century Venetian orphanage where Antonio Vivaldi instructed girls in music. Anna Maria's father, a renowned violin maker, expresses a dying wish for her to enter the Pietà Orphanage. There she finds a good friend in Sylvia and a fierce enemy in jealous Paolina. Worried when her beloved violin disappears, and enraged when she learns that Paolina threw it into the canal, Sylvia must rely on the power of music as well as self-control, courage, and forgiveness to make things right again. More memorable than the somewhat idealized ending are the strong emotions that lie at the heart of the story. While the final art was not seen, the sketches look promising, and the jacket is well designed to draw children intrigued by the historical setting or the musical theme. A glossary and a historical note are appended to this short, appealing historical novel from the Stepping Stone series. Grades 3-5. --Carolyn Phelan