Another Band’s Treasure: A Story of Recycled Instruments

Graphic Universe. Apr. 2023. 136p. lib. ed. $29.32. ISBN 9781728460376; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781728478234.
Gr 3-6–Daniel and his sister, Ada, live outside the capital of Paraguay, where the community processes the materials of the city’s landfill. Villager Diego decides to teach music to the local children to fill their time, as there is no formal school. He and Nicolas, a carpenter, build instruments out of the discarded raw material around them for the students to play. Credited as “inspired by the story of Favio Chavez,” whose “recycled orchestra” initiative was dramatized in Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport’s Ada’s Violin and the documentary Landfill Harmonic, Xie’s adaptation focuses on how music can inspire joy and bring people together. Her pages foreground a male perspective, and readers initially see the community declaim music as an extravagance. The emotive power of instrumental performance is gradually valorized in how it reduces competitiveness, bullying, and rewards a practical, mechanical mind. Readers unfamiliar with the true story may wonder why Ada’s tin-can violin is the only thing to be rendered in color in the pen-and-ink illustrations, giving it a power that is never mirrored in Diego’s uplifting performances or Nicholas’s steel-drum guitar—despite the latter actually being referred to as “magic.” And, considering that Daniel is positioned as the transformed hero who returns home at the finale, the prominent depiction of Ada’s violin is more puzzling than moving.
VERDICT Xie’s sparse fabrication of real events never successfully achieves the admittedly difficult task of visually depicting how music can touch the spirit. Small human moments abound, but the story’s attempts to portray more sweeping emotions fall short.

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