The first thing I consider when reviewing a book is how it starts. Is the beginning intriguing or inviting? Do we immediately understand the point of the story?
Page 2/3 says, “Carlo lived in a small town called Roseto. The town had winding roads and was surrounded by mountains. Roseto sat at the foot of the tallest mountain. Its cobblestone roads led to a town square. It looked a lot like a medieval town.”
Would a young child know what a cobblestone road was or how a medieval town looked? These would have been fine to write if the illustration showed a cobblestone road in the center of a medieval looking town but the picture doesn’t show the road at all and the town looks like any other town. There is no indication of what is to come and we have no reason to read on.
Page 4/5 focuses completely on Carlo’s enjoyment of the church bells. So now we assume the story is going to be about the boy’s relationship with the bells.
But then, page 6/7 talks a little about Carlo’s house and the castle beside it.
Finally, page 8/9 says, “Every day Carlo had to walk up the mountain.” This is actually where the story begins. I think most children would have tuned out by this point. This is unfortunate because the story then takes off. The dialogue between Carlo and his friend who joins him on the walk up the mountain is lively and propels the story well.
The text could have been enriched by more sensory detail such as having the boys mention particulars like the taste, colour, ingredients, temperature, and the smell of the panini and gelato they relish.
The ending is lovely and worthy of discussion. Children can relate to the different interpretations of the passage of time when alone and with a friend. The story also raises the concept of appreciation for all the things the boys are given.
The illustrations are unique and interesting. They are partly drawn and partly montage which gives a textual appearance to the landscape. I liked the pictures of the boys especially when they were imagining all the wonderful things in their community. Carlo’s hair is adorable.
I think this is a book with wonderful potential and some beautiful qualities that just got off on the wrong foot.
I was given an ebook in exchange for an honest review.