Emily Arnold McCully, Emily Arnold McCully, . . Scholastic/ Levine, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-19274-3

McCully (Beautiful Warrior) hits plenty of high notes with her latest history-inspired picture book, the dramatic tale of a talented young vocalist in 18th-century Venice. Even as an infant, Nina Dolci already seems to possess the same gift for music as her angelic-voiced older brother, Antonio. However, while the Dolcis long to provide music and singing lessons for their children, they cannot afford such luxuries in their extreme poverty. They determine that the best thing they can do for their daughter is to leave her anonymously at the ospedalo, an orphanage where foundling girls receive fine musical training. The pain of the Dolcis' sacrifice eases somewhat as they eventually attend concerts performed by the ospedalo's chorus and befriend their growing daughter, never informing her of their bond. But when Nina's voice proves the one elixir that helps Antonio recover from a serious illness, she shares a closeness with the Dolcis that she knows can come only from family. 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. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)