Three Picture Books About Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was an Italian Baroque composer, best known for his violin concertos The Four Seasons. Here are four picture books about Vivaldi’s life, especially his composing The Four Seasons while working at a girls’ orphanage in Venice.

I, Vivaldi by Janice Shefelman, illustrated by Tom Shefelman (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008)

This first person account of Vivaldi’s life from birth to the composition of The Four Seasons is detailed with lots of dialogue. The story centres on his mother’s desire for him to become a priest and his wish to become a composer. The words are accompanied by realistic, detailed water colour and ink illustrations. An author’s note (“Fact or Fiction”) gives the brief facts of Vivaldi’s life and a glossary defines eight terms, from cardinal to piazza.

Vivaldi and the Invisible Orchestra by Stephen Costanza (Henry Holt and Company, 2012)

This picture book focuses on Vivaldi writing music for the orchestra of a girls’ orphanage, especially a fictional orphan named Candida who copies the sheet music everyday. She writes some poetry to go with Vivaldi’s music (based on the true existence of anonymous sonnets that accompany The Four Seasons). The illustrations are soft and imaginative. A one-page author’s note describes the orphanage and sonnets, but provides no biographical details about Vivaldi.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by JoAnn E. Kitchel (Charlesbridge, 2012)

This longer picture book tells the story of Vivaldi losing his job at the girls’ orphanage, but later writing music for the orphanage orchestra. It includes evocative descriptions of The Four Seasons music, as well as the text of the four sonnets. A one-page author’s note gives biographical info about Vivaldi, including his connection to the orphanage over the years and what we know about The Four Seasons and the accompanying sonnets. I found the simple illustrations a bit lacking.

I hope you’ll pick up one of these books soon. (Don’t forget to put on The Four Seasons while you read!)

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