One of the more fun ways to introduce younger kids to different countries is through picture books. Recently our travels took us to Venice, with Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley as our Five in the Row book. This is a sweet book about an old tomcat who ends up adopting three kittens. The watercolor illustrations are incredibly detailed and beautiful of both the cats and the setting.
Zoe Sophia is a heroine who is a natural heir to Eloise (or a big sister to Olivia). (Actually, I like her better than either of those characters, both of whom I find amusing but also annoying and unbelievably precocious.) This intrepid 9 yr old traveler from New York goes to Venice to visit her great-aunt. There is a side plot about her dog getting lost but mostly this book is packed full of art and architecture and landmarks of Venice. She eats the local cuisine (spaghetti al nero), rides in a gondola and visits a glassblower. It’s a lot of information about Venice but in an engaging and fun format. This one is probably best suited to older kids, my 7 yr old appreciated it much more than the 4 yr old.
Speaking of Olivia, she has also been to Venice. I have to admit to not being a huge Olivia fan (see above). We’ve read all the books and my boys find them funny but they aren’t their favorites. Still, this made an amusing addition to our Venice study. David thought it was hilarious that she ate gelato on every page . At the end of the week we celebrated with gelato of our own and he wanted it “stacked high like Olivia.”
This amusing book by John Bemelmans Marciano tells the story of a boy who sees a dolphin in the Grand Canal but his parents won’t believe him. The story is predictable, but that’s reassuring and enjoyable to a preschooler. It’s simple, but well done.
Sometimes when a picture book seems to have a hidden moral message I get annoyed at the author. This sweet book by Renee Riva has a message (less is more) but it’s done with a light hand and doesn’t detract from the book itself. Guido is the favorite gondolier in Venice because of his songs and charm. He is convinced by one animal after another to “trade up” and try to have a bigger and better lifestyle. He does but in the end realizes that he was happier in his simple life as a gondolier. The combination of rhyming text, repetition in the story and simple well-done illustrations is a winning one for preschoolers.
And as always, check out what other moms and kids are reading at Hope is the Word.