I, Vivaldi – Janice and Tom Shefelman

I Vivaldi Janice Tom Shefelman
I, Vivaldi by Janice Shefelman, Tom Shefelman
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on February 8, 2022
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In this picture book inspired by the life of Antonio Vivaldi, the composer himself narrates how a creative, determined boy grew up to create masterpieces like “The Four Seasons.”
Despite his mother's vow for him to become a priest, young Vivaldi is only interested in music. He soon grows from a feisty, violin-obsessed boy into a stubborn young man who puts his musical training ahead of his studies for priesthood. Beautiful, ornate artwork portrays the spirit and splendor of Vivaldi's hometown of Venice. A historical note, musical score, and glossary will help readers more fully appreciate the composer’s Baroque context and his enduring genius.

Antonio Vivaldi was a 16th century Italian composer, violinist, and…you may not know this one…a priest. I, Vivaldi is an immersive, beautifully-illustrated, imaginative first-person biography of the virtuoso aimed at upper elementary age kids. Perfect for the young violinist in your family, I, Vivaldi tells history in an informative but engaging way, focusing on the things that kids that age would be interested in.

Most notably, author Janice Shefelman focuses on Vivaldi’s mother’s desire for him to be a priest—stemming from a vow made during his difficult birth—and Vivaldi’s tension between honoring that vow and pursuing his passion. In the end, Vivaldi does become a priest (something I didn’t know!), but the passion for music makes him a pretty lousy priest. Instead, he gets to do some non-traditional priesting and teaches violin to orphaned children.

I think this point is particularly important, because it shows that you can honor your parents and pursue your passions. You can pursue both a career and a hobby. You can find ways to bring your passion into the way you teach others about God. You can honor God by using the talents he gave you. You don’t have to be a priest or pastor to serve God, you can serve God by putting to work the passion he gave you.

Tom Shefelman’s illustrations are vivid and in a painting style that fits a story set in 1700s Italy. The background work is especially well-done and the two-page panel that visually captures the Four Seasons is magnificent.

I, Vivaldi would be a great addition to school libraries, good reading for elementary music classes, or perfect in the home of a young violinist.