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Review: Vendela in Venice-Italy with children

Review: Vendela in Venice-Italy with children

Venice is one of those magical, almost surreal cities that everyone should visit at least once if they can.  The other worldly, magical feel of the city will stay with you for the rest of your life.  Made up of 118 islands separated by canals and linked by 409 bridges, there’s lots to explore -just avoid the high season in July and August when prices go up and there are tons of other tourists! Originally written in Swedish,  Vendela in Venice starts with a description of all of the things in Stockholm that are linked to Venice including copies of the four horses in Venice, and the Piraeus Lion at the Historical museum which is a copy of the lion at the Venetian Arsenal.  The lion is covered in Scandinavian runic graffiti from 1000 years ago, though the inscriptions were not recognized as runes until the late 1800s. Vendela’s dad decides it is time for them to take a trip to Venice and they start planning.  They read books about Venice, learn a little bit about the history of the city and finally it is time to go.  They fly into Marco Polo airport on the mainland and decide to take the boat to Venice, which I agree is the best way to enter the city, especially at  night when it is all lit up as it is in the story. The next day, they’re off to see the sights and Vendela’s dad offers her a choice of walking or taking the vaporetto (water bus).  Vendella, of course, opts for the vaporetto which is a great way to see the city and is an adventure in and of itself.  Her dad explains how the Lion of St. Mark became the symbol of Venice and during the rest of the story, Vendella goes looking for as many lions as she can find (they are everywhere and finding them is a good game for children).  They of course stop and look at the four horses, both the replicas mounted over the front of St. Mark’s Cathedral and the real ones just inside the church. Then it’s time for a quick break at Florian‘s, a cafe which has been around since 1720. During her trip,...

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Review: Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice-Venice with children

Review: Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice-Venice with children

How many lion sculptures can you find in Venice? Zoe finds fifty-three, but she’s sure there are more!  In Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice by Claudia Mauner and Elisa Smalley, Zoe Sophia is a nine year old New Yorker who, along with her dog, Mickey, travels to Venice to visit her great aunt.  Her adventures are chronicled in Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook from the time the plane leaves New York until her last night in Venice. Interspersed with Italian words and phrases, it’s a great introduction to a child’s eye view of Venice.  Zoe compares and contrasts the differences (both good and bad) between her home in New York and Venice.  She’s very enthusiastic about everything;  the vaporetta (boat bus) which makes her feel like a pirate princess, her Aunt’s apartment which contains a Chagall, just like the Met in New York; her first breakfast, cornetti, which are kind of like croissants; and a visit to the Gallerie dell’Accademia where the artist Tiepolo liked purple as much as she does.  Over the next few days, her Aunt takes her to the Laboratorio Artigaiano Machere to buy a mask, on a walk over the Rialto bridge, and on a ride in a gondola.  After a very full and absolutely amazing few days, she discovers that her dog, Mickey has gotten lost in the shuffle and is missing!  Fortunately the gondolier finds him and he is returned safe and sound, along with a new friend, Aïda.  Much relieved, Zoe (and Mickey and Aïda) head off to the opera which was fantastico.  The next day the tour of Venice is back on and they head to Murano to see the glassblowing (which my son is dying to try).  Of course a trip to Venice isn’t complete without a visit to the Piazza San Marco with a quick stop at Caffe Florian’s (open since 1720) for a cup of hot chocolate and a last dinner at Quadri’s before getting ready to leave for New York. We enjoyed the way everything was relayed rather irreverently by Zoe as she enjoys her European adventure though my son said he would definitely rather explore Venice with us than with a great aunt! The question is, can he find more than 53 lion...

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Review: Jo-Jo the Melon Donkey-Venice with children

Review: Jo-Jo the Melon Donkey-Venice with children

“Jo-Jo was a donkey.  His father had been a donkey before him, and his mother as well. And so, of course, Jo-Jo had to be a donkey whether he liked it or not.” So starts the tale of the rather downtrodden Jo-Jo the Melon Donkey written by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Tony Kerins.   Jo-Jo’s luck starts to change when his owner decides to take him to sell melons in St. Mark’s Square, the principal piazza in Venice, with St. Mark’s Bascilica and the campanile on one end and the Doge’s palace and the Procuratie Vecchie and Procuratie Nuove along the other sides. The Doge’s palace as well as St. Mark’s Basilica are both open to the public. When they reach the square, Jo-Jo’s master stops under the four golden horses adorning St. Mark’s Basilica and tells Jo-Jo to sing out and sell their wares.  Initially the aristocrats in St. Mark’s square have no time for Jo-Jo and laugh at the contrast between him and the golden horses above, that is until the Doge’s daughter runs out of the palace, lonely, bored, and eager to buy a melon.  Suddenly, Jo-Jo is sold out as everyone strives to imitate the princess.  Every day that summer, Jo-Jo comes to St. Mark’s square loaded with melons and every day the Doge’s daughter comes out of the palace for her melon and a chat with Jo-Jo. One day, the Doge announces a competition.  He is going to purchase the finest horse in the city for his daughter’s birthday.  The horses are brought into the square and lined up for viewing, each one finer than the next, but which one does the Doge’s daughter choose?  Jo-Jo!  Her father is appalled, but she is insistent, stating that if she can’t have Jo-Jo she doesn’t want anything.  While we haven’t had this argument over a horse, it certainly sounded familiar! As she is sent to her room, she whispers to Jo-Jo to meet her that night so they can run away together. That night, Jo-Jo bites through his restraining rope and heads for the palace.  As he runs past the four golden horses, he hears voices.  At first he can’t figure out who is talking, then he realizes it is the four...

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