There's nothing like traveling the world and exploring other cultures, but let's face it: the majority of us will not cover even a small fraction of the globe in our lifetimes.
There are many other ways to travel the world, though. Just leaving your home, you can explore the world of nature. If you're anywhere near a city, there's always a museum to visit.
These days, though, if we can't leave our homes for some reason, we can take trips through the internet and books-in-print. One complements the other nicely, and in my view, school aged children need both. It's important to note here that I believe strongly that young children should be kept away from plugged in devices for as long as possible.
I've said it many times before, and I'll say it again: young children need picture books like they need the air they breathe. The reason why is simple: children's books open up a whole world of learning and literacy with each turn of the page. No travel time or money needed, unless you're counting the time it takes to get to your local library.
And so, if your child has any interest in art, architecture, geography, history, or Italy, here are 2 great picture books which complement each other nicely:
Pippo the Fool (Junior Library Guild Selection (Charlesbridge Paper)), by Tracy E. Fern (author) and Pau Estrada (illustrator) is based on a true story, and is a great read-aloud for children between the ages of 5 and 12. But really, even teens and adults will get a lot out of this one.
If you're planning a trip to Florence, this one's a must-read! Pippo is actually the famous Filippo Brunelleschi, the Renaissance architect who designed the dome of the Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore, as well as several other buildings in Florence.
Building such a large dome was a revolutionary idea back in the early 15th century, when Brunelleschi first started his masterpiece, as evidenced by this quote:
"Building the dome had puzzled the greatest architects in Italy for more than one hundred years. What could support such an enormous dome without ruining the beauty of the cathedral?"
Brunelleschi was up to the multiple challenges such a monumental project would present, but there were other artists who competed with him for the honor. In the picture book, his main competitor is an artist named Lorenzo Ghiberti. You can find out more about him and other Italian artists at library,thinkquest.org, and more about Florence at PBS.org.
By the end of the book, Pippo the Fool has transformed himself into Pippo the Genius, and Brunelleschi's work delights and amazes people from all over the world to this day.
While there are so many learning connections that could be made from this picture book, I thought I'd mention one which gives readers a nice overview of Italy, which also has a few references to Filippo Brunelleschi. It's an ABC book, believe it or not, that's packed with information for all ages of readers.
C isfor Ciao: An Italy Alphabet (Discover the World), by Elissa D. Grodin and past Governor Mario M. Cuomo (authors) and Marco Ventura (illustrator) is anything but your average alphabet book. There's something in it for all ages of readers.
While younger children will appreciate the rhyming poems for each letter, older children and adults will love the fact that it's jam packed with information about the culture, history, and geography of Italy. If you're planning a trip to the country, C is for Ciao is a great coffee table book that the whole family will enjoy reading a little bit at a time.
Please note that if you or your teen would like to read even more about the famous dome, you might want to try Ross King's Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. I've added it to my reading list.
I'd love to help you all connect more dots of travel and literature, but will not do so unless there's a strong interest. So, please leave me a note in the comments if you'd like some additional book suggestions. Or, feel free to head to the library to seek out more related selections on your own. You could even go a step further and ask for some suggestions from your local librarian, art or history teacher.
As always, I also suggest that you have a world map or globe handy so you can point out the places mentioned in the above books. Or, you could pull up a map of Italy, or even the region of Tuscany, on the internet.
If, like me, you'd like to see more children's literature in schools, please do your part and speak up! Together, we can work together to change the face of education.