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The Orphan Singer

Written & Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully


Inspiration in Venice! 

With Mirette on the Highwire, Emily McCully discovered an instinct for finding the true human story in an exotic setting long ago and far away. In this same tradition came Beautiful Warrior and now The Orphan Singer. Fascinated by a piece of information about a famous orphanage in Venice – the Pieta – where the great Vivaldi coached talented girls to the heights of musical achievement, McCully traveled to Venice to do research and to sketch among the canals.

There the fictional story of one of those girls began to grow in her imagination. Nina, it seems, was not an orphan at all, but a girl from a desperately poor family that couldn’t bear to see another child go uneducated and untrained. So Nina’s family makes the agonizing decision to give their baby girl into the care of the Pieta, secretly watching over her and visiting as if they were any of the strangers and admirers, who came to visit the famous “foundling” prodigies.

Though she doesn’t know they are family, a bond grows between Nina and the kind strangers, a bond that one day causes her to risk everything they’ve sacrificed in order to be by their side. This is McCully at her dramatic, painterly best.


Reviews and Awards

⋆ “Lyrical watercolor-and-tempera illustrations with marbleized borders perfectly capture the dark, somber moments of abandonment and desperate flight as well as the clarity and light of the school.” - School Library Journal, starred review

“The full-page paintings in bright watercolor and tempera are as idyllic and theatrical as the story, pulsing with excitement as the angelic-looking child sings for the Maestro Vivaldi and for the crowds listening in the street. The light-filled views of Venice are both realistic and dreamy.” - Booklist

“McCully (Beautiful Warrior) hits plenty of high notes… McCully's swift-moving text and signature compositions, a textured blend of watercolor and tempera, awaken the sights and sounds of Venice's canals, alleyways, drawing rooms and opera houses. Young Nina's sweet face, framed by golden curls and raised in song, will stay with readers long after this book is closed.” - Publishers Weekly 


Purchase Options
Amazon • Barnes & Noble


Fall 2001
Picture Book
ISBN: 0-439-19274-9
Price: $16.95/$22.99
Trim Size: 8 1/2" x 11"
Page Count: 32
Foreign Rights: Scholastic
Translation Rights: Scholastic
Rights Available? no


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