Named a 2017 E. B. White Honor Book!


The Story of the Recycled Orchestra

of Paraguay

Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3095-1


Here is the extraordinary true tale of children living on a landfill in one of the poorest slums in South America and the man who saved them through music. Profiled on 60 Minutes and the subject of the Landfill Harmonic (a new documentary movie whose trailer went viral), this incredible story is now available to kids in a nonfiction picture book, soon to be released in both English and Spanish editions.


The book tells the story through the eyes of Ada Ríos, a young girl who grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option...until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.


Author Susan Hood interviewed Ada Ríos and Favio Chávez for the book, uncovering never-before-heard details of their story. She plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from the book to the Orchestra.



E. B. White Read-Aloud Award: Honor Book


Américas Award: 2017 Winner


The Christopher Award: 2017 Children's Book Winner


Bank Street Center for Children's Literature: Flora Steiglitz Straus Award 2017


International Reading Association: 

Notable Books for a Global Society 2017


NCTE Orbis Pictus Award: Recommended Book for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children


New York Public Library: 100 Best Books for Kids 2016


Center for the Study of Multicultural Studies: Best Books of 2016 


California Reading Association: Eureka Excellence in Nonfiction Gold Medal


SLJ and Fuse 8's 2016 Nonfiction Picture Books selected by Betsy Bird


The 2016 Nerdies: Nonfiction Picture Books


Want to arrange a screening of the Landfill Harmonic movie or buy the DVD? Here's how.  




Click here for ADA'S VIOLIN Activities and Games.




Read Simon and Schuster's press release about the book here.


Publishers Weekly in a STARRED Review

redstar"Hood’s (Rooting for You) beautifully narrated true tale begins in Cateura, a “noisy, stinking, sweltering slum” of Paraguay. That’s where Ada Ríos lives with her family, recyclers (gancheros) who collect and sell trash from the nearby landfill. When engineer Favio Chávez begins teaching music to at-risk children there, Ada learns the violin, and she and other students play instruments made from recycled trash. Comport (Love Will See You Through) employs a vibrant collage technique, using pictures of food labels, tires, and other detritus to form colorful, almost ethereal backdrops. Light-infused scenes of gancheros picking through mountains of trash, children playing soccer in Cateura’s streets, and Ada practicing violin all include hopeful shades of yellow. Torn bits of a musical score edge out the garbage scraps as the story progresses. When the Recycled Orchestra gains fame, its members perform in some of the world’s biggest, brightest cities: “Buried in the trash was music. And buried in themselves was something to be proud of.” An author’s note expands on this uplifting, instructive story; a Spanish-language edition is available simultaneously. (To go to the review online, click here.)

School Library Journal in a STARRED review

redstarGr 2-5 – "Hood tells the story of a real child growing up in an actual place—Cateura—a community of people who live and feed themselves by picking through the tons of trash generated by the capital city of Asunción, Paraguay, and salvaging items to recycle and sell. Despite her bleak surroundings, Ada Ríos liked to imagine each garbage truck was “a box of surprises. One never knew what might be inside.” When Ada was 11, a man named Favio Chávez started to hold music classes for the local young people. Since there weren’t enough instruments to go around and they were too precious for the kids to take them home to practice, the project seemed doomed to be short-lived. Watching the children play amid the rubble gave Señor Chávez an idea. He enlisted the help of the gancheros (recyclers), and they fashioned cellos from oil drums, flutes out of water pipes, and guitars from packing crates. Ada chose a violin made from an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates. Through hard work and long hours of practice over time, she and the rest of the ragtag crew of kids formed the Recycled Orchestra, and the rest is history, as they’ve grown and made a name for themselves internationally. Comport’s mixed-media collages are nothing short of brilliant as she plays with light and dark throughout. The spreads capture the look and feel of the cramped and stinking landfill, the oppressive heat, and the hardscrabble lives of the residents. They also convey the resourcefulness and warmth of the families and the aspirations of the children. The scenes of the kids embracing their instruments and sharing their joy at making music are absolutely transcendent. “With her violin, Ada could close her eyes and imagine a different life. She could soar on the high, bright, bittersweet notes to a place far away. She could be who she was meant to be.” VERDICT A virtuoso piece of nonfiction, gloriously told and illustrated."–Luann Toth, School Library Journal (To go to the review online, click here.)

—Luanne Toth
School Library Journal

"SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL I set out to find new books that had a Hispanic character, theme, or backdrop. With one in four children in the United States being Hispanic, the task should have been easy and the offerings plentiful, right? Unfortunately, not much has changed, and the Latino market continues to be underrepresented. On the bright side, the few books I found are truly worthy and recommended for the shelves of every public and school library."


Spring Latino Books-HoodAda’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. by Susan Hood. illus. by Sally Wern Comport. S. & S. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430951. Spanish edition $17.99 ISBN 9781481466578.

—Lucia Acosta
Kirkus Reviews

"Hood presents the story of a Paraguayan youth orchestra whose instruments are fashioned from garbage collected in the local landfill.

Cateura is, literally, “a town made of trash.” The dump for the capital city of Asunción, Cateura receives 1,500 tons of trash daily, and 2,500 families subsist there, with generations of gancheros scouring for recyclable materials like cardboard and plastic. Favio Chávez, an environmental engineer assigned to Cateura to teach the recyclers safety methods, began offering music lessons to children, to help keep them safe. He enlisted a carpenter’s expertise in creating instruments from salvaged materials. “They transformed oil drums into cellos, water pipes into flutes, and packing crates into guitars!” Hood’s narrative focuses on talented Ada Ríos, whose years of dedicated practice on a metal-and-wood violin parallel the orchestra’s ascendant fame in Paraguay and internationally. “Ada and her friends flew on their first airplane, stayed in their first hotel…and saw sights they never imagined.” Comport’s complex, digitally enhanced collages combine acrylics, drawing, and layered typographic elements, conveying both the oppressive omnipresence of garbage and the functional beauty of the handcrafted instruments. For a spread celebrating the music’s transforming effects, Comport renders musicians and gancheros in silhouette against the landfill, bathed in sunset pinks and golds. Pair with the suggested video links to experience the music of a remarkable, resilient cultural community. (author’s note, websites, videos, quotation sources, photographs)" (See the review online by clicking here.)

Librarian's Quest

"With each reading the richness of Susan Hood's use of language increases in this nonfiction narrative. Research and interviews revealed personal and specific details which she includes in her concert of words; quotations, spoken Spanish and the insertion of sound effects adding to the authenticity. Hood clearly represents the physical living conditions of life in Cateura but also describes the generosity of spirit found in the people highlighted in this title. ... The design in a word is stunning.  The blend of textures, images, light and shadows and individual items literally takes your breath away. of my favorite nonfiction books of 2016." (For the full review, click here.) 

—Margie Myers