Sometimes, the littlest things spark memories. Looking at the illustrations in this book took me back to my honeymoon in Italy. My husband and Ispent a day wandering and admiring art throughout Florence. I distinctly remember many of the statutes, especially David, which Barbara includes in Renato and the Lion. Florence is a magical city that I want to re-visit someday.
I hope you enjoy the beauty and magic that surrounds this city and emanates from this wonderful story.
Renato and the Lion
Author/Illustrator: Barbara DiLorenzo
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group (2017)
Art, friendship, history, family, and magic.
Synopsis (From Barnes & Noble):
The touching, magical story of a boy in a war-torn country and the stone lion that rescues him.
Renato loves his home in Florence, Italy. He loves playing with his friends in the Piazza della Signoria. He loves walking home by the beautiful buildings and fountains with his father in the evenings. And he especially loves the stone lion who seems to smile at him from a pedestal in the piazza. The lion makes him feel safe.
But one day his father tells him that their family must leave. Their country is at war, and they will be safer in America. Renato can only think of his lion. Who will keep him safe?
With luminous watercolor paintings, Barbara DiLorenzo captures the beauty of Florence in this heartwarming and ultimately magical picture book.
Renato loved his home in Florence, Italy.
He loved the people there. And the food there.
But he especially loved the art there.
It was everywhere.
Why I like this book:
Barbara wraps scary World War II history, magnificent sculptures and art works, the beauty of Florence, magic, and love into a fantastic debut picture book. And ties it all up in a bow, with her soft, tender watercolor illustrations.
Readers experience the city of Florence through Rentao's eyes, a child playing throughout the city and visiting his father in the museum. Where his father works, cleaning and restoring the statutes.
The mood changes as soldiers arrive and Renato's father shows him the stone domed walls which have been built to protect the city's statutes. When his father informs Renato they were leaving Florence and traveling to America the next day, Renato dashes off to save his beloved Medici lion statute in the Piazza della Signoria. In a beautiful sequence of images highlighting the architecture of Florence, the lion saves Renato from the soldiers, carries him through Florence, and delivers him home. Or was it just a dream? (I suppose that's up to the reader.)
In return, Renato's father completes the domed brick wall, which Renato started, to protect the lion. Then the family flees to America. As a fun tribute, Barbara painted a portrait of the woman who organized the mission to transport refugees from Europe. Search the image of the U.S.A.T. Henry Gibbons for the woman holding a camera.
Years pass. The book resumes with Renato and his granddaughter returning to Florence, visiting his favorite places and statutes, and thanking his friend the Medici lion. It is a touching fictional story about the magic of art and its ability to touch and improve our lives. And perhaps a reminder that we are all responsible for preserving these treasures around the world.
- activities created by Penguin (http://www.penguin.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Renato-and-Lion-Activities.pdf);
- check out an image of the lion statute in Florence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medici_lions#/media/File:Lion_of_Loggia_de%27_Lanzi_left.JPG);
- visit a local musuem and look at the statutes. Can you create a story for one of them?
To be entered for a free copy of Renato and the Lion just leave a comment at the end of this post or Barbara's Interview on June 19th.
This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.