illustrated · Picture Book Reviews

Review: Paolo Emperor Of Rome by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Claire Keane.

Review: Paolo Emperor Of Rome by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Claire Keane.

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Rome is a beautiful city of freedom – but not for Paolo. He is stuck inside a hair salon, and never ever allowed out. One day, when a customer leaves the door open, Paolo senses his opportunity and makes a bid for freedom.

Paolo fights a gang of cats, visits the opera, and wins the support of the street dogs. He becomes bigger and braver, proving himself to be imperial and wise. Soon the whole city is in awe of Paolo, but such attention comes at a cost.

A thumping good animal adventure. Face-offs with tough cats and a nighttime parade through the city are contrasted with images of Paolo curled tight, and looking desperately from a window at the outside world. He’s vulnerable, and he wants his freedom so much, that we root for him from the start.

The narrative and illustrations both remind me of the Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans, with fly-on-the-wall style reporting of Paolo’s movements and short, exaggerated statements from Paolo himself. Some of the double-page spreads are divided into multiple, short illustrations that give the reader a tour of the setting as Paolo’s adventures begin. Key scenes are given full double-page illustrations, heightening the drama without using a single word. The style of illustration, too, is also reminiscent of Bemelmans’s work, with a muted colour palette and sparing use of line.

Not only is this a beautiful story, but it is also a wonderful introduction to the history of Rome. Paolo’s walking tour takes in The Colosseum, the opera houses and the Trevi Fountain among other notable locations. Alongside the historical buildings and monuments, the illustrations include the contemporary tourists and citizens of Rome. 

This story reminds us that, while comfort is important, it should never come at the cost of personal freedom. 

 

Thanks to Abrams Books For Young Readers for my copy of Paolo Emperor Of Rome. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction

Review: Rebel Dogs! Heroic Tales Of Trusty Hounds by Kimberlie Hamilton.

 

Review: Rebel Dogs! Heroic Tales Of Trusty Hounds by Kimberlie Hamilton.

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Wow – bow-wow wow, in fact. This book is packed with tales of history’s most heroic hounds. You’ve heard about Rebel Girls. Now it is time to acknowledge the rebel dogs. 

Rebel Dogs follows on from the surge of interest in real-life stories, especially stories about the great and extraordinary. This year, tales about our animal friends have been added to the shelves. Rebel Dogs tells the stories of dogs such as Trakar, the 9/11 search and rescue hero, Aussie the penguin protector, and Mari, who helped an elderly man escape from an earthquake. 

From dogs whose faces are widely known (like Laika the space dog) to dogs whose stories have rarely been told, this book is filled with stories of our canine companions. I was particularly interested in the story about a dog called Robot who discovered a prehistoric cave. This was a tale I had never heard and it would be a rich source of inspiration for anyone looking to write something creative. 

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Our fellow animals are capable of more than some people know. Stories like these are reminders that our interactions with other animals can be moving and extraordinary, and that they deserve as much respsect on a daily basis as our human friends. 

The book is made extra-informative with timelines and snippets of information about other well-known dogs. It is also beautifully illustrated with contributions from an entire team of illustrators. These illustrators are credited at the back of the book with a little snippet about their careers and lives. 

Young readers are often especially inclined to pick up a book if it is about their favourite animal friends, so there is space for this kind of non-fiction any day of the year. The perfect present for a dog lover this Christmas. 

 

Thanks to Scholastic LTD for my copy of Rebel Dogs! Heroic Tales Of Trusty Hounds. Opinions my own.