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A Book Tour of Italy for Kids

ciaofornow from Toronto

My children were always pleased to discover a novel or story set in Italy and especially written about the places they had visited. We always traveled with a supply of reading material for quiet times and airports as the selection of children's books, in English, is limited and costly. I started keeping a list of favorites and here is a collection of fiction and non-fiction that would compliment a child's trip to Italy. They are organized by regions within Italy, with publishers recommended age range and type of book (fiction or non-fiction).

Juvenile=story with pictures, F=fiction, NF=non-fiction


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All of Italy

The Year I Didn't Go To School, Giselle Potter, 2002
The author was seven when she spent a year touring Italy in her family's theatre troupe. Written from a child's perspective with sweet illustrations and journal entries.
Juvenile NF

Diary of Melanie Martin; I How Survived Matt The Brat, Michelangelo and The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Carol Weston, 2001
Ten year old Melanie, who misses a bit of school to travel to Italy, must collect remembrances for a school presentation due on her return.
9-12 F

The Thread of Life: Twelve Old Italian Tales, Domenico Vittorini & Mary Grandpre (illustrator of the Harry Potter series), 2003
A really lovely book to read aloud.
All ages F

Anno's Italy, Mitsumasa Anno, 1984
In this unique, wordless picture book Japanese artist, Anno populates the Italian landscape with everyday people, Renaissance masterpieces and sights in famous cities.
All ages F

Southern Italy and Sicily

The Buried City of Pompeii, Shelley Tanaka, 2000
This vividly illustrated book recreates the last morning and afternoon in the doomed city. The epilogue details some of the current archaeological displays.
All ages F

Mind's Eye, Paul Fleischman, 1999
A 16 year old girl paralyzed in a riding accident moves beyond her physical limitations and takes an imaginary journey through Naples and Florence using a vintage 1910 Baedeker guidebook.
13+ F

The King of Capri, Jeanette Winterson, 2003
Inclement weather blows away all the King's luxurious possessions and deposits them at the home of a poor woman in Naples.
Juvenile F

Strega Nona; Her Story, Tomie dePaola, 1974
The funny tale of Big Anthony and the trouble that ensues when he tries to use Strega Nona's magic pasta pot. Set in Calabria.
Juvenile F

The Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily, Dino Buzzati, 1947 reissued in 2003
Based on Sicilian folklore, this jaunty tale recounts the winter a pack of starving bears came to town looking for food.
Juvenile F


City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction, David Macauley, 1974
The planning and building of the imaginary city of 'Verbonia' complete with superb B&W drawings.
All ages F

Tiger Tiger, Lynne Reid Banks, 2005
Two lion cubs captured from the jungle are taken to Rome where one becomes a fierce fighter in the Colosseum and the other becomes the pampered pet of Aurelia, the daughter of Caesar.
13+ F

Roman Mysteries, Caroline Lawrence, 2001
'The Thieves of Ostia' is the first in this brilliant mystery series set in ancient Rome. Kids get a painless dose of interesting and authentic historical detail while sleuthing with young Flavia and her friends.
9-12 F

Galen, My Life in Imperial Rome, Marissa Moss, 2002
Galen is a 12 year old Greek slave living in the Royal household of the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Historical fiction with illustrations.
9-12 F

The Roman Colosseum, Elizabeth Mann, 1998
A clear and colorful history of the Colosseum and its spectacles.
All ages NF

You Wouldn't Want to Be a Roman Gladiator!, John Malam, 2001
Comical illustrations and a light-hearted style are used to reveal the gory details of life in the Roman arena.
9-12 F

The Roman News, Philip Steele, 1999
"Caesar Stabbed!" reads the headline on the front page of this book depicting an imaginary ancient Roman newspaper.
9-12 F

The Language Of Doves, Rosemary Wells, 1996
A young girl learns the story behind her grandfather's role in training the homing pigeons used by the Italian Army to carry secret messages in W W1.
Juvenile F

Tuscany with Central and Northern Italy

T is For Toscana, Gary Kelley, 2003
Simple text as each letter of the Italian alphabet is represented by an Italian word, such as bicicletta (bicycle), gelato (ice cream) but the illustrations are a work of art.
All ages

Starry Messenger; A Story of Galileo, Peter Sis, 1996
This gorgeous illustrated biography of Galileo incorporates the art, science, and history of the period. Also by this author "Follow The Dream, The Story of Christopher Columbus".
All ages NF

Saffy's Angel, Hilary McKay, 2002
Saffy Casson is 13 and lives with her quirky artistic family in England. Her life changes when she realizes she is adopted and she runs away to Siena, Italy to search for her past.
10-14 F

Leonardo; Beautiful Dreamer, Robert Byrd, 2003
This is a completely absorbing picture book biography that uses a style borrowed from Leonardo's own notebooks and is filled with amazing detail on each page.
All ages F

Leonardo's Horse, Jean Fritz, 2001
In 1482, Leonardo da Vinci received a commission from Duke Sforza of Milan for a mammoth 24 foot bronze horse. It was not completed until..500 years later. An intriguing story; today the sculpture is on display in Milan.
All ages

The Second Mrs. Gioconda, E. L. Konigsburg, 1998
This novel explores the mystery and riddle behind da Vinci's masterpiece the Mona Lisa.
10-14 F

The Stolen Smile, J. Patrick Lewis, 2004
A lush picture book based on the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa and told from the point of view of the spirited thief who sought to 'rescue' the painting from France and return it to Italian soil. Illustrated by Gary Kelley.
All ages F

Michelangelo, Diane Stanley, 2000
The life of Michelangelo in a very readable format. Even the text pages are decorated and the full page illustrations are a clever montage of the artist's sculpture, paintings & sketches.
All ages NF

Midnight Magic, Avi, 2003
This is a 15th century ghost story set in a fanciful Italian kingdom. There is growing suspense and a tangle of intrigue and mystery amongst the kings and queens, counts and magicians.
13+ F

Dante's Daughter, Kimberley Heuston, 2003
A fictional account of the great poet's intelligent and talented daughter in the years leading up to the Italian Renaissance.
13+ F

On Etruscan Time, Tracey Barrett, 2004
Eleven year old Hector and his mother travel to Italy for summer vacation where she is helping some friends on an archaeological dig. Hector thinks this is sooo not fun until he meets Arath, an Etruscan boy who can travel through time.
9-12 F

The Rope Trick, Lloyd Alexander, 2002
A trio of young magicians travel through imagined Italian provinces where they meet a collection of fantastical and eccentric characters. A classic Lloyd Alexander fantasy which combines humor, mystery and adventure.
10-14 F

The Secret Book Of Grazia De Rossi, Jacqueline Park, 1998
The fascinating life of a young Jewish woman in the court of Isabella D'Este of Mantua, for older readers.
13+ F


Bravo Zan Angelo; A Commedia dell'Arte Tale, Niki Daly, 1998
Young Angelo's grandfather who was once the most famous comedian in all Venice and now he wishes to carry on the tradition and join a street troupe. Exquisite watercolor illustrations of Venice.
Juvenile F

Zo Sophia's Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice, Claudia Mauner, 2003
Zo Sophia and her dog visit the famous sites in Venice.
Juvenile F

Vendela In Venice, Christina Bjork, 1999
From the author of 'Linnea in Monet's Garden', this is the picture book travelogue of a young Swedish girl and her impressions of Venice.
All ages F

The Thief Lord, Cornelia Funke 2002
Two orphaned brothers flee to Venice where they hook up with a band of homeless children under the protection of the mysterious "Thief Lord".
10-14 F

Stravaganza; City of Masks, Mary Hoffman, 2002
Lucien, bedridden with a serious illness is gifted an antique Italian journal which magically transports him to 15th century Bellezza, a Venetian-like city. "City of Masks" is the first in a trilogy of fantasy time traveler books located in imagined cities in historical Italy. ("City of Stars", Siena and "City of Flowers", Florence).
13+ F

Daughter of Venice, Donna Jo Napoli, 2003
An engrossing read set in 16th century Venice and full of details on the life of a young noblewoman named Donata. Most women's lives were severely limited, but the engaging Donata persuades her father to allow her a tutor and soon life outside the family palazzo beckons.
13+ F

For The Love of Venice, Donna Jo Napoli, 2000
An American teenager, Percy, grudgingly joins his family in Venice where his father is working on an engineering project to build a seawall. He meets a Venetian teen, Graziella, who is part of an activist group trying to limit tourists and preserve the city. Napoli's evocative descriptions of contemporary Venice make this a thought-provoking book.
13+ F

This is Venice, Miroslav Sasek, 2005
An adventure visiting famous landmarks in Venice through the canals.
Juvenile F


Slow Travel France - A Book Tour of Paris for Teens: An annotated book tour of Paris, by topic, for teenagers, by Ciaofornow.

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