Armchair Travel: Kids’ Italy Books
Well, with Michelle and her crew gearing up to travel to Italy this fall, all things Italy are dancing through her head! So we decided to round up some of our favorite books for kids that are set in Italy. We own a couple of these, and look to our local library for the rest. Venice and Rome feature heavily in the lineup, but we have found some that explore Italy at large some too. Inquiring minds want to know where the Florence books are. . . any ideas? (P.S. There are a couple of books for the grownups at the end!)
Dodsworth in Rome is once again the story of a goofy duck getting into trouble all over the city. Like the one set in Paris, many landmarks are shown, but mentions the sites in passing more than it shows or explores them. It’s definitely still a fun book, but be ready to look up and explain what exactly the silly duck is seeing.
Colorful and charming, There’s a Dolphin in the Grand Canal! is set in Venice. It is the story of a young boy who spots a dolphin, but no one believes him. The illustrations are set up and down the winding streets of Venice and in the cafe the boy’s parents own. All the big sights of Venice, plus a feel of the less-touristy side of the city.
Opera Cat is not set in any particular city, but explores a very important side of Italian culture– opera! (For centuries, opera tunes were what children would sing on the streets. Opera was an integral part of their culture!) A famous opera singer’s cat saves the day when her owner can’t sing. . . Entertaining and fun, my children enjoyed this book!
Olivia Goes to Venice aannd almost burns it down. Chaos reigns when the piggy family visits the famous city. All the sights do survive. The illustrations are drawings superimposed over pictures, which makes it especially fun to look at.
Gabriella’s Song becomes the inspiration for a Venetian’s composer new symphony. It focuses less on the sights of Venice, and more on the community and importance of songs to the Italians. Sweet and atmospherically evocative, this is one of my favorites.
Orani: My Father’s Village is a child’s nostalgic view of visiting her grandparents in a little Italian village every summer. I love that it gives a glimpse into everyday village life, and the memories of childhood are heart-warming.
Rome Antics is short on text, but long on wonderfully detailed illustrations. It follows the path of a homing pigeon as he swoops throughout the city, giving his readers an, um, birds-eye view of many differing angles in the city. Look for SPQR hidden on some pages! (SPQR stands for Senātus Populusque Rōmānus: “The Senate and People of Rome”; it can be seen everywhere in Rome.)
Michael the Angel tells the story of Michaelangelo growing up and growing into the artist we all know of. Italian scenes and a little history round it out nicely!
For an excellent overview of many things Italian, both culturally and historically, C is for Ciao is where to turn. I always appreciate books that give a wider view of a country than just the famous cities! (I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet, but Italy ABCs looks like another good book for such an overview!)
Madeline and the Cats of Rome finds the French heroine in the Eternal City encountering its famous felines in her inimitable style. (To be honest, I didn’t know that these cats are actually a thing! Though Michelle did and is incorporating that on her next trip!) Like the Dodsworth books, the Madeline books are fun and entertaining, show lots of sights, but don’t tell you what you’re seeing. Again, use it as an introduction and be prepared to figure out what you’re looking at!
I was a little surprised at how much my 7 year old enjoyed looking at Not For Parents Rome: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been, given how many photos and illustrations are packed onto each page! Very informational, and according to my daughter entertaining, add this book to your list to Italy books for kids for sure!
And last, but certainly not least, all of Sasek’s books (including This is Venice and This is Rome) are that rare children’s book combination of colorful engaging pictures paired with rich informative text. They are must-reads for a thorough overview of a city.
Lagniappe: For the Adults
If you’d like to soak up the flavor of Rome without leaving your sofa, both Four Seasons in Rome and Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy evoke its flavors and sounds beautifully. The first is a chronicle of a family’s year with twins, and sweetly explores the city through a visitor’s eyes. Keeping the Feast is a little more bittersweet; the author’s husband was badly wounded while covering the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, and they make their home in Italy for many years while he heals. Both are wonderful reads!
Anyone else ready for Italy now?? What favorite books do you have to add?