I’ve had today’s Perfect Picture Book on my “to review” shelf for a while. Hearing the news about Notre Dame Cathedral made me think of it, and review it today.
Title: Renato and the Lion
Written & Illustrated By: Barbara DiLorenzo
Publisher/Date: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group/2017
Suitable for Ages: 5-7
Themes/Topics: war; art; national treasures; refugee; imagination; intergenerational story
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.
Brief Synopsis: A young boy worries about the fate of a stone lion in his hometown of Florence, Italy, as the Nazis invade during World War II, and he and his family must flee to America.
Links to Resources:
- Check out the coloring pages with background information about Renato and the Lion;
- Visit a museum or sculpture garden;
- Create your own sculpture.
Why I Like this Book:
In Renato and the Lion, DiLorenzo tells a gentle story that deals with difficult topics in a child-friendly way. Set in Florence, Italy during World War II, the story features young Renato and the stone lion sculpture in the Piazza della Signoria that he loves. Although readers see soldiers patrolling the streets and although Renato’s father vocalizes his fears, the focus is on Renato, his love for the lion, and the steps he, and his father, take to protect the lion from harm.
Including a glimpse into the many Renaissance treasures of Florence, a dream-like, magical journey through Florence at night, young Renato’s journey to America as a war refugee, and his journey back to Florence years later, Renato and the Lion touches on many themes that will appeal to children. These themes also make it a valuable addition to art and social studies curricula.
DiLorenzo’s soft, watercolor illustrations bring Florence and Renato’s story to life, and further the feeling of love and hope that run through the story.
A Note about Craft:
At its heart, Renato and the Lion is the story of a relationship between a boy and his beloved sculpture. But there are so many layers to this story! Readers discover Florentine artwork and learn about sculpture restoration. We learn how Italians protected precious art during World War II. We experience the fear and dread of leaving one’s home and venturing to a large, new city. We also accompany Renato and his granddaughter back to Florence decades later and are left with a feeling of hope that all ends well. These layers not only add up to a well-told story, but they help make a central problem of the story, war, more child friendly.
In an Author’s Note, DiLorenzo recounts the backstory that includes a family trip to Florence and a documentary about protecting artistic treasures during World War II. What inspires your stories?
Visit DiLorenzo’s website to see more of her award-winning artwork.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!