Monday, November 1, 2010


By Janice Shefelman
ISBN: 978-0-375-95881-6
Publisher: Random House

FROM THE FLAP: After her father’s death, Anna Maria is sent to the Pieta, an orphanage in Venice. She misses her father, but at least she will always have the violin he made for her. When she plays it, she hears his voice.

Luckily, the Pieta is not just any orphanage. It’s also a famous music school, and the teacher there is the great composer Antonio Vivaldi. Anna Maria quickly becomes his favorite student. But not everyone at the Pieta likes Anna Maria. Soon she has a rival—the talented, cruel Paolina, who throws Anna Maria’s violin into a canal. With the help of her beloved teacher, and new friends, Anna Maria searches Venice’s bridges, streets, and canals. Will Anna Maria find her father’s violin? Can she ever be happy in Venice without it.

Inspired by a real orphanage, this lyrical story by Janice Shefelman perfectly captures the beauty of Venice, the joy of music, and the way a little kindness can help make a scary new place feel like home.

KATE’S TAKE: Great characterization, and a peek inside Italy’s impressive musical culture.

FOUR SEASONS SKITS Musical, Intrapersonal, and Verbal/Linguistic

Divide the class into four groups, one for each season. Have each group listen to The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. Then, ask each group to design a two to three minute skit that’s inspired by the music. If you have any musicians in the class, they might choose to play musical accompaniment for their group’s skit.

GREAT GONDOLAS: Visual/Spatial, Logical/Mathematical and Interpersonal

Ask students to work in pairs and give each pair a 10x10 sheet of aluminum foil. Ask them to construct boats out of the tinfoil. Then place pennies inside each boat to determine which boat is the strongest. Boats with the most surface area are able to hold the most pennies.

INSTRUMENT-SHAPED POEMS Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial

Have students write a poem about an orchestra instrument. Then have them outline the shape of the instrument on the paper. Next have them copy their poem along the outline of the instrument.

SILVIA OF THE CELLO PARAGRAPHS: Verbal/Linguistic and Intrapersonal

Author Janice Shefelman explains that most of the orphans did not have last names. So, they were given the last name of whatever instrument they played. Ask students to think about a talent or a hobby that best describes them. Ask them to write a paragraph explaining why they chose this last name.

VENICE VIEWS: Visual/Spatial

Anna Maria thinks the city of Venice floats on a lagoon, but her guardian informs her that Vienna stands on thousands of posts set on the bottom of the lagoon. Give each student a blue 11x18 sheet of construction paper. Ask them to cut out different shaped houses from various shades of construction paper and make views of Venice.


-Gabriella’s Song by Candace Fleming
-I, Vivaldi by Janice Shefelman
-Mole Music by David McPhail
-Zin! ZIn! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss
-Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice by Claudia Mauner

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