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Anna Maria’s Gift

Last updated Thursday, February 24, 2011

Author: Janice Shefelman
Illustrator: Robert Papp
Date of Publication: 2010
ISBN: 0375858814
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2011

Synopsis: From School Library Journal
Grade 3–5—A tender story about love and loss. Anna Maria, the nine-year-old daughter of a gifted violin maker, is sent to live and study at the Pietà, an orphanage in Venice, after her father dies. The violin prodigy flourishes under the tutelage of maestro Antonio Vivaldi but suffers a devastating blow when a jealous classmate throws her precious violin into a canal. What follows is a compelling lesson in selflessness and forgiveness. Shefelman's style is light, simple, and pleasing, and she has placed a cast of likable characters in a lovely setting. There is a brief glossary of musical and religious terms as well as a closing note about the actual Pietà and Vivaldi's stint as an instructor there, making this a good cross-curricular tool in addition to an engaging read.

Note to readers:
•  Traditionally, the forty days in Lent would mark a season of sorrowful reflection, fasting and abstinence from fruit, eggs, meat and dairy products. Although carnevale is first mentioned in documented sources in 1092 during the Dogate of Vitale Falier, the history of Venetian carnival is thought to have originated from an annual celebration of Doge Vitale Michieli II's victory over Ulrich II of Treven, Patriarch of Aquileia in 1162. Ulrich II was taken prisoner together with 12 vassals who were allied to the feudal Friulians in a rebellion against the Republic's (Italian: Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia) control over the territory of Grado. Ulric was eventually released on the condition that he pay an annual tribute to Venice in the form of 12 loaves of bread, 12 pigs and 1 bull. During this period a tradition began of slaughtering a bull (representing Ulric) and 12 pigs in the Piazza di San Marco around Shrove Thursday (Veneziano: Zioba Grasso) to commemorate the victory. The first documented sources, mentioning the use of masks in Venice can be found as far back as the 13th centaury. The document describes the the practice of masked men throwing scented eggs at ladies and its prohibition by the council (Venetian Laws, 1268 May).

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What do you know about violin? Can you name any other instruments close to the violin?
•  Does anyone here play an instrument? Does anyone you know?
•  Do you know where Venice is?
•  Can you any classical composers? (Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi)

•  Gondola (photo on page 12) – Taxi-like boat used in the Venice
•  Lire – former currency of Italy before the introduction of the Euro
•  Doge (page 13) – duke
•  Cello

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What does Anna Maria’s dad do for a living?
•  How do you think you would make a violin? Do you think it would be hard to make a violin? What is a violin made of?
•  How long do you think Anna Maria was playing the violin for?
•  Do you know anyone in real life or in books/movies who went to boarding school? (Harry Potter)
•  Would you be willing to go away from home to a school (boarding school).

Craft ideas:
•  Carnevale mask: http://www.clipartandcrafts.com/coloring/kidstuff/pages/mardigras-mask.html

Special activities:
•  Make up a melody and add lyrics to the Macaroni Song on page 13 (try different styles of music, pop, rap, Tejano, etc)

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!