Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on October 25, 2022
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An exuberantly illustrated true story about innovation, community, and the power of music.
In Cateura, Paraguay, a town built on a landfill, music teacher Favio Chavez longed to help the families living and working amid the hills of trash. How could he help them find hope for the future? Favio started giving music lessons to Cateura’s children, but soon he encountered a serious problem. He had more students than instruments!
But Favio had a strange and wonderful idea: what if this recyclers’ town had its own recycled orchestra? Favio and Colá, a brilliant local carpenter, began to experiment with transforming garbage into wonder. Old glue canisters became violins; paint cans became violas; drainpipes became flutes and saxophones. With repurposed instruments in their hands, the children of Cateura could fill their community—and the world—with the sounds of a better tomorrow.
Based on an incredible true story, Building an Orchestra of Hope offers an unforgettable picture of human dignity reclaimed from unexpected sources. Carmen Oliver’s inviting words and Luisa Uribe’s dynamic illustrations create a stirring tribute to creativity, resilience, and the transformative nature of hope.
Favio Chavez is an Argentinian musician and environmental technician who combined his two loves into one by forming the Recycled Orchestra, an orchestra composed of Paraguayan child musicians who play instruments created out of scraps collected from Asunción’s Cateura landfill. The quote on the back of the book says it best: The world sends us garbage. We send back music. Building an Orchestra of Hope tells Favio’s story.
As an environmental scientist, Chavez moved to Cateura, Paraguay, to help the families who lived in the small village literally built on the landfill. The opening panels describe just how much trash was dumped at the landfill every day. It talks about how many people, called gancheros, made their living collecting and reselling any usable garbage. It is not a place where people are supposed to live, said Favio. But people did.
Soon, he began to teach the children of the gancheros how to play music. He brought his own guitars and violins to the landfill, but soon had more students than instruments. What was he to do? A violin cost more than a house in Cateura. And that’s how reclaimed garbage soon became musical instruments. Over several years, Cola, one of the gancheros, made a whole orchestra of instruments. Through the power of music, Chavez was able to bring hope to a poverty-stricken village.
While Building an Orchestra of Hope ends with an orchestra in Cateura for his pupils’ parents, Favio Chavez would go on to play with his orchestra in several different countries. They’ve played with Metallica and Megadeth, entertained the Queen of Spain, and even the Pope. It’s an incredible story of resilience, beauty, and the power of music. All of this is featured in an afterword that retells the illustrated story and brings it nearly into the present.
Building an Orchestra of Hope is a simple, illustrated biography that offers a snapshot of how ordinary people doing simple things can create the extraordinary. It’s a unique and captivating story and author Carmen Oliver has done their research, even corresponding directly with Chavez on the book. Luisa Uribe brings the setting to life, portraying music as color—taking the muted browns of the landfill and filling it was vibrancy and brightness. It’s the perfect mix that’s sure to capture the head and heart of any young music lover.