To paraphrase her heroine, Teter’s novel rarely just hits the notes—it sings.

Isabella's Libretto

A talented, orphaned cellist wrestles with aspiration, abandonment, and family in Teter’s YA debut.

From 1703-1740, the famed violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi wrote most of his concertos and cantatas for the orchestra at the Ospedale della Pietà, a convent, orphanage, and music school in Venice, Italy, whose concerts—performed by the Pietà’s all-female musicians—helped bring in donations. Abandoned when she was a baby, teenage Isabella dal Cello dreams of studying under Don Vivaldi and playing a concerto solo he would write just for her. She’s proven herself to be not only one of the Pietà’s most promising cellists, but also a constant nuisance to the orphanage’s stern head nun, Signora Priora. To discipline Isabella for sneaking out during carnevale, the prioress commands Isabella to teach the cello to Monica, a severely burned newcomer who survived a fire that claimed her parents. Along with helping Monica master cello basics and adjust to life in the Pietà, Isabella indulges her best friend Catherine’s “childish belief” that her mother will one day return for her; bids farewell to her cello teacher, Cecilia, as she leaves the orphanage for married life; and contemplates the advances of Niccolò Morelli, the son of a prosperous family who seems to have marriage on his mind. But, as Cecilia reminds Isabella, leaving the Pietà behind also means leaving the cello behind—to avoid competition, the orphanage forbids its former musicians from playing in public. Cecilia’s marks the first of several emotional departures that dismay Isabella, who eventually must decide whether to continue her life in the Pietà or finally live outside its walls. In Isabella, Teter has created a remarkably sympathetic character, even (perhaps especially) when she’s acting most selfishly, such as immediately thinking, upon seeing Monica’s burned face, that “this girl can never play a wind instrument.” One plotline drags in the novel’s first third—an initially suspenseful flashback about the carnevale incident fizzles out—but from there Teter wisely lets her characters drive the story forward.

To paraphrase her heroine, Teter’s novel rarely just hits the notes—it sings.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0982062920

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Excalibur Press

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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ALVIN AILEY

A slightly fictionalized account of the great dancer- choreographer's (1931-89) early training and rise to fame, ending with the triumphant 1960 production of Revelations. Andrea Pinkney's narration is an undetailed but effective appreciation, written in an energetic, expressive style. Her husband's scratchboard illustrations are grand, beautifully capturing the dancers' rhythmic movement in swirls of fine lines and subtle, rather somber color enriching the black underlay. A final note fills in some of the facts; this attractive introduction, based on interviews with many who knew Ailey, will leave readers hungry for more. (Biography/Picture book)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 1993

ISBN: 1-56282-413-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1993

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THE BABY HOUSE

A newly illustrated reissue of a 1955 text which has held up well, in general: an expectant family first welcomes kittens, then puppies (and keeps them all, so the clear-toned watercolor illustrations offer many opportunities for counting), then a baby. The pint-size narrator is from the same mold as the irrepressible heroine of Samuels' Dolores books (Bradbury, 1986-89); they even share the same fondness for big hats and cowboy boots. The simple parallelism of the text, which shows the human mother (like the canine and feline ones) loving, kissing, and feeding her offspring, requires that the human father be anachronistically portrayed offstage or as the fond onlooker of a generation ago rather than as the active participant that he often is today. But young readers will be more concerned with the narrator, who neatly places herself just where most children would want to be—smack in the center of everything: ``All the mothers had their babies. All the fathers had their babies. And I had all their babies,'' she says happily, as puppies, kittens, and little brother clamber over her. There are more than enough books that deal with sibling rivalry; this one primes a child on all the positive wonders of being an older sibling. (Picture book. 2-5)*justify no*

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-671-87044-0

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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