About the Holiday
Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. He then enlisted the help of Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly, who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation,” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library to help spread the word. This year’s theme is “How Do You Book?” The thought-provoking theme encourages readers to think about what they read, where they read, and how they read. To learn more about this literary holiday, visit Every Child a Reader to find out more about the week, how to join online, and lots of bookmarks and activities to download.
Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chávez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash
Written by Carmen Oliver | Illustrated by Luisa Uribe
As a child, Favio Chávez looked to music as an important touchstone. When he grew up, he was still involved with music, but his profession was as an environmental engineer. He was given a job in “Cateura, Paraguay—a small village built on a landfill—to try to help the families who lived and worked amid the hills of trash.” When trucks came and dumped load after load of trash, recyclers, called gancheros, filled bags of items they could resell. The air was choked with the stench of garbage, and anywhere the gancheros walked “they waded through filth.” It made Favio sad to think of people living this way.
As Favio supervised the gancheros, he “became friends with them and their children. He worried about what kind of lives they would live when they grew up. Besides his job at the landfill, “Favio conducted a youth orchestra in a nearby village.” One day, the people he worked with came to listen. They wondered if their kids could also learn to play instruments. Favio was excited by the prospect.
He even brought his own guitars and violins for the children to play, but soon he had more kids in class than he had instruments. But there was another problem too. The instruments were valuable and could attract thieves to the homes of his students. He needed another idea, and while watching Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, a talented carpenter, picking through the trash, he thought of something that might work.
Colá began searching through the piles for anything that he could use to make instruments. He collected cans and pipes, crates and buttons, even X-ray film and eating utensils. As he looked at his materials, Colá envisioned how he could create a violin. Finally with violins and other instruments for each child, Favio began teaching them how to play and how to read music. They practiced and practiced until they were ready to perform for their parents.
At a local church, with the audience packed and excited, the notes of the children’s first song ‘”New York, New York’ floated out the windows and into the warm night air.” The adults were overcome with happiness. While their lives had been only about survival, they now “had hope in their hearts and dreams for a better tomorrow.”
Back matter includes further information about Favio Chávez and the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura from 1975, when Favio was born in Argentina to 2006, when he arrived to work at the Cateura landfill to today, when the Orchestra supports more children and families with building projects, food, computers for school, scholarships, and many more humanitarian efforts. A selected bibliography is also included.
From its earliest days the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura has inspired musicians, authors, movie makers, and listeners from around the world. In Building an Orchestra of Hope, Carmen Oliver tells the story through the lens of a hope fulfilled. As Favio Chávez begins his new job at the landfill educating the gancheros on how to work more efficiently, his initial thought is for the future of the children of the village. Oliver shows how Chávez not only supervised the workers but became their friend, honored to be included. While relating Chávez’s eagerness to share his love of music with the children, Oliver hints at what’s to come with lyrical descriptions of the sounds the glass, metal, and plastic makes as the gancheros rake through the piles of trash. She also includes pertinent facts that allow readers to understand the challenges the community faced and what a monumental undertaking the idea was.
While this story revolves around Favio Chávez, his idea could never have been brought to fruition without the talents of Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, who could envision the instruments and even hear their sound as he pored through the trash for materials. Oliver provides a satisfyingly detailed list of the types of items Colá repurposed and later reveals which items were used to create violins, drums, violas, flutes, saxophones, and trumpets, pages that are sure to pique young crafters’ interest. The emotional ending to this true story will swell the hearts of readers—those who already know about the orchestra and those being introduced to it for the first time.
Louisa Uribe’s soft-hued illustrations realistically depict the village of Cateura and the landfill it is built upon. They meet Favio Chávez and Nicolás Gómez and witness the idea of creating instruments from trash come to life. Uribe’s close up of a violin lets kids see how disparate items are used creatively to replicate each part of the instrument. As instruments are made, the number of children filling the courtyard grows until their hard work and practice is rewarded on a real stage, a microcosm of the growth and impact of one man’s caring and creativity.
Special Note: The inspirational back matter, worthy of its own picture book, will astound readers with just how far-reaching one idea when explored in collaboration with others can be. Themes of the vital importance and life-changing impact of the arts, persistence, determination, overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges and odds, and the power of hope are what this true story is built on, and this factual back matter is sure to affect readers and get them thinking about how they can make a difference to a cause they believe in.
Powerful, accessible, and impactful, Building an Orchestra of Hope is a must for all home, school, and library collections, not only to tell this compelling, ongoing story but to remind them that their actions, too—from a single kind word or smile to large community effort—can change lives.
Ages 4 – 9
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-0802854674
You can learn more about Luisa Uribe, her books, and her art on her website.
You can connect with Carmen Oliver on Twitter.
Children’s Book Week Activity
Are you a bookworm? If so, then this bookmark is for you! Just print, color, and cut along the dotted line. This little worm will happily save your page for you!
You can find Building an Orchestra of Hope at these booksellers
To support your local independent bookstore, order from
Picture Book Review