THE ORPHAN SINGER by Emily Arnold McCully


Age Range: 6 - 8
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Vivaldi’s Venice is the scene for this somewhat melodramatic story of sacrifice for the greater good. Young Antonio Dolci has great talent as a singer, but the Dolcis have so little money they cannot afford lessons. When his sister Nina is born, Antonio’s parents are determined to give her a better life. With breaking hearts they drop her into the infant drawer at the orphanage, where foundling girls with talent receive the best musical training in Europe. Now known as Caterina, Nina is not allowed outside its walls. Her voice is one of the best in the orphanage and she joins the chorus at a young age. On visiting day the Dolci family is always there pretending to be strangers. When the family does not appear one day, Caterina is worried. At last, Papa Dolci arrives to tell her that Antonio is seriously ill and may die. Desperate to see him, and knowing he will become well if he hears her sing, she slips out of the orphanage late at night, manages to tell a sleepy gondolier the address she remembered, and appears at the Dolci home to sing to Antonio. He gets well and the family is there to hear her debut with the choir. Caterina becomes a famous opera star and never forgets the Dolcis, for she has “long ago guessed the truth.” Full-color watercolor-and-tempura paintings are framed in pastel colors with a marbleized effect reminiscent of the elegant papers for which Italy is famous. The two double-paged spreads, however, are not framed, creating a jarring effect to the design. Venetian scenes and costumes are magical both by day and night, but the figures are somewhat indistinct, at times giving a muddled look to the pictures. A sweet tale that will appeal to readers who enjoy fairy tales. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-439-19274-9
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Levine/Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2001


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