Other Interests

Ciao Bambino! A Child’s Tour of Italy

by Danna Troncatty Leahy

The author says, “There is a growing need for families to expose their children to foreign languages and foreign cultures. Of course, many privileged families can afford to travel to experience these new places first hand. Others may simply want to expose them at an early age to inspire their exploration. Either path, what better means to expose your children than through the gift of books.

From this idea, I was determined to write a book for preschoolers that exposed them to Italian language and cultural novelties, but was more than just another picture dictionary. It had to be fun and engage the preschooler with familiar things from home, while sharing novelties from another country. This month I launched what I hope to be the first in a series of Ciao Bambino books. Ciao Bambino! A Child’s Tour of Italy is a picture book targeted for children 3-6 years old. Beautifully illustrated in original watercolor art, the 36-page book shares a tour of Italy through a child’s scrapbook. Throughout the fictional story, the young boy and his teddy bear travel companion share their travel adventure, and teach twenty-five Italian words along the way.”

La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language

by Dianne Hales

“Italians say that someone who acquires a new language ‘possesses’ it. In my case, Italian possesses me. With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses…” A celebration of the language and culture of Italy, La Bella Lingua is the story of how a language shaped a nation, told against the backdrop of one woman’s personal quest to speak fluent Italian. For anyone who has been to Italy, the fantasy of living the Italian life is powerfully seductive. But to truly become Italian, one must learn the language. This is how Dianne Hales began her journey. In La Bella Lingua, she brings the story of her decades-long experience with the “the world’s most loved and lovable language” together with explorations of Italy’s history, literature, art, music, movies, lifestyle, and food in a true opera amorosa—a labor of her love of Italy. Throughout her first excursion in Italy—with “non parlo Italiano” as her only Italian phrase—Dianne delighted in the beauty of what she saw but craved comprehension of what she heard. And so she chose to inhabit the language. Over more than twenty-five years she has studied Italian in every way possible: through Berlitz, books, CDs, podcasts, private tutorials and conversation groups, and, most importantly, large blocks of time in Italy. In the process she found that Italian became not just a passion and a pleasure, but a passport into Italy’s storia and its very soul. She offers charming insights into what makes Italian the most emotionally expressive of languages, from how the “pronto” (“Ready!”) Italians say when they answer the telephone conveys a sense of something coming alive, to how even ordinary things such as a towel (asciugamano) or handkerchief (fazzoletto) sound better in Italian. She invites readers to join her as she traces the evolution of Italian in the zesty graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, in Dante’s incandescent cantos, and in Boccaccio’s bawdy Decameron. She portrays how social graces remain woven into the fabric of Italian: even the chipper “ciao,” which does double duty as “hi” and “bye,” reflects centuries of bella figura. And she exalts the glories of Italy’s food and its rich and often uproarious gastronomic language: Italians deftly describe someone uptight as a baccala (dried cod), a busybody who noses into everything as a prezzemolo (parsley), a worthless or banal movie as a polpettone (large meatball).

If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island

by Ellen Levine

Arranged in Q&A style, this survey of earlier immigrations asks: “Did all immigrants come through Ellis Island?” (no); “Did you have to have a job waiting for you?” (again, no; in fact, it was not allowed). It’s evident that America has always been a polyglot magnet–even in 1643, 18 languages were spoken in one colonial area. It’s also evident that there’s been long-standing prejudice against certain immigrants (ability to read was required for entrance, and first and second class arrivals didn’t have to sweat it out at Ellis Island). Perhaps most interesting here are the individual stories: the name change in the author’s own family; the child who had never seen a banana and ate it whole; the “six- second” medical exam. Levine (If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon, 1986) gives multiculturalism an extra boost by ending with a sampling of words and other contributions from many heritages.

Crafting Your Own Heritage Album

by Bev Kirschner Braun

Amazon Reader’s Review: “I’ve seen several books devoted to the topic of heritage scrapping, but none cover all the details specific to preserving family memories like this book does. The usual information regarding album choice, supplies and terminology are included here. Ms. Braun takes the artform a step further and provides examples and ideas to help make your heritage album more than a simple “photo album.” She suggests principles for choosing color and theme and the book has ample illustrations of pages that reflect an attractive style that enhances rather than overpowers these old photos. Use of non-photo documents is well covered, too. She provides a great deal of information for those who might wish to delve into genealogy as part of their project. Numerous resources are suggested to help the novice explore their family tree. She even has examples of how to handle the “unknowns” you will certainly encounter along the way. She shows a pair of photos, one of her great-great grandmother and an “unknown close friend”–not her great-great grandfather! There’s a story waiting to be told there, and what a clever way to include the photo and allow the viewer’s imagination free rein.”

Roman Mysteries #3: The Pirates of Pompeii

by Caroline Lawrence

Suitable for Grades 4-7. It is a.d. 79. The Roman world is reeling from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Hundreds of refugees are living in a makeshift camp, trying to come to terms with what has happened. Then even more tragedy strikes: the camp’s children begin to disappear. Flavia Gemina and her friends Jonathan, Nubia, and Lupus are determined to find out more and start to investigate a powerful and charismatic man known as the Patron. A dangerous trail leads them to the caves and grottoes of Sorrento, where they encounter pirates, slave dealers—and possible death.

Roman Mysteries #2: The Secrets of Vesuvius

by Caroline Lawrence

Suitable for Grades 4-7. Flavia, Jonathan, Lupus and Nubia – friends and detectives – sail to the Bay of Naples to spend the summer with Flavia’s uncle, who lives near Pompeii. There they uncover a riddle that may lead them to great treasure. Meanwhile, tremors shake the ground, animals behave strangely, and people dream of impending doom. One of the worst natural disasters of all time is about to happen: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius!

Roman Mysteries #1: Thieves of Ostia

by Caroline Lawrence

Suitable for Grades 4-7. The place is Ostia, the port of Rome. Flavia Gemina, a Roman sea captain’s daughter, is about to embark on a thrilling adventure. Set in a graveyard, marketplace, and courtyards of a Roman city, this fast-paced mystery paints a vivid picture of the life in ancient times.

When the dogs on Flavia’s street start dying, she is determined to find out who is killing them–and why. Her investigation leads her to three extraordinary people: Jonathan, her new neighbor; Nubia, an African slave girl; and Lupus, a mute beggar boy. They become firm friends as they search for the killer, narrowly escape being kidnapped by a slave dealer, and uncover a series of burglaries.