by Janice Shefelman
illustrated by Tom Shefelman
2008. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was an Italian baroque composer and violinist.
In Vivaldi's own "voice," this book narrates the events of his life, beginning with his birth on the day of an earthquake when his mother promises God that her son will be a priest. This promise creates an inner conflict for Vivaldi as his musical talent is revealed, but the book follows his path to becoming both the Red Priest and a violin teacher for orphan girls.
About the Illustrations
Throughout this book Vivaldi appears warm and approachable, as though he is someone young readers would want to get to know. The illustrations also include lovely depictions of church interiors. There is just one problem, which occurs twice. The same figure is shown two different times in two different illustrations playing a pipe, and the figure's hands are reversed on the instrument. In a book about a musician, these details are especially important, so it's disappointing that an editor did not correct this error.
There are three notes at the back of the book. "Fact and Fiction" explains how the author wrote the text "using facts to imagine fiction." The "Glossary" defines words specific to the Catholic faith, like cardinal and Mass, as well as Italian words like gondola. Finally, the "Listen and Play" section suggests that readers listen to "The Compleat Four Seasons" and provides the Violin I part for the beginning of "Spring."
This book is very well done, and one of my favorites of this month's project. Though the first person narration does make it more of a fiction book, the factual information is all correct, and presenting it as a story helps make it interesting to young readers who might not know anything about Vivaldi.