Review and Connections: Ada’s Violin


“With her violin, Ada could close her eyes and imagine a different life.”

Ada is a young girl who lives in a slum on a rubbish tip. Everyone in her family and community earn a living by collecting materials to recycle. It is a hard and difficult life.

Ada and many of her friends love music. They sign up for lessons; but, unfortunately it is not safe to keep the expensive instruments in their homes and they need to practice. The community comes together to make instruments from the materials that they find at the rubbish tip. The children are able to practice and they form a ‘recycled’ orchestra.

Ada’s Violin is a story about a community that showed how creative and innovative they could be when faced with a problem to solve. It shows perseverance; and, individual and communal commitment towards a goal.

To find out more about the true story that inspired this book:

Recycled Orchestra a Video


Learner Profile Attributes: Thinkers (creatively used recycled materials to create instruments), Communicators (used music to express their ideas and communicate with others).

Attitudes:  Commitment (Ada showed commitment to learn the violin), confidence (demonstrated confidence in her own ability when performing in front of an audience), cooperation (to be a successful orchestra you have to have a cooperative relationship with members), enthusiasm (regularly practiced to improve her musical abilities), creativity (creatively used materials to make musical instruments out of recycled materials)

PYP Concepts: Connection (e.g. How is music linked to Ada’s self belief?), Causation (e.g. Why do people live in rubbish dumps?) , Form (e.g. What is a slum?),  Function (e.g. How does a musical instrument work?), Perspective (How would the audience view Ada’s life differently?)

Links to transdisciplinary themes: How we Express Ourselves , Who We Are, Where We Are In Place and Time, Sharing the planet.


Review and Connections: A Boy and A Jaguar


“This book made me cry tears of sympathy, and joy. You and I are this boy; you and I are this jaguar.” Sherman Alexie

A Boy and A Jaguar written by Alan Rabinowitz and illustrated by Catia Chien is a beautifully written and illustrated biography about zoologist and conservationist, Alan Rabinowitz. It describes Alan as a young child and documents the challenges he has to overcome in order to become a successful advocate for animals. Alan has a stutter that stigmatizes his educational experiences and effects his self esteem. The stutter prevents him from communicating effectively; however, through an experimental program Alan is provided with a range of strategies to control it. He makes a promise to his pets “that if I can ever find my voice, I will be their voice and keep them from harm.” Alan grows to achieve his dreams, he studies animals in the wild and is their voice.

Caitia Chien’s illustration throughout the book are stunning, working perfectly with the text.The illustrations draw the reader into the story. The colours and techniques that are utilized add to the mood of the story, enabling the reader to feel happiness, shame, apprehension, fear, anger, joy and compassion.


Learner Profile Attributes: Knowledgeable (about the need to protect animals and create preserves), Communicators (expresses his knowledge confidently to convince others to protect animals), Principled (demonstrates a strong sense of fairness and respects the right to life of all animals), Caring (shows empathy, compassion and respect towards all animals).

Attitudes: Appreciation (appreciating the wonder and beauty of the natural world and the animals that live in it), commitment (showing commitment to overcoming learning difference and keeping his promise to conserve wildlife/the environment), confidence (in his ability to share his knowledge and convince others of the value of protecting wildlife, empathy (understanding the value of conservation).

PYP Concepts: Connection (What are the links between creating preserves and saving animals?), Causation (e.g. Why are animals hunted? What causes speech impediments?) , Change (e.g. What is the role of the government in creating wildlife preserves? How are peoples beliefs about protecting animals changing?), Function (could facilitate a discussion about the function of wildlife preserves and government decision making), Responsibility.