This is Pippo atop the dome he constructed on the Cathedral of Florence, Italy starting in 1420. It took 16 years to complete.
Everyone in Florence thought Pippo Brunelleschi was a fool. However, he proved himself to be recognized as a genius when he won a contest to construct the dome for the Cathedral of Florence. This story champions the “little guy” as this quirky fellow wins over the bullies.
I teach Reading at both the high school level and the primary level. At the high school, I have a big stack of books like this one and encourage my teenagers to “give-a-go” because they are struggling readers. Struggling readers are turned off by big, long, small-printed books without pictures. They do not have the stamina to get through a chapter not to mention a several hundred page book. My Reading Room is a safe place where they have Independent Reading time and can easily thumb through a colorful book. More times than not, they end up reading the story. It can be finished usually on one period, sometimes more. The reason I have this particular stack of books handy is because the 9th grade studies Global History which includes the Renaissance. I’ve collaborated with their teacher and we love that these books introduce my readers- who are resistant to learning because it is so hard for them – to names, places, and events of the time period. When they read and hear about these things in class, they feel confident to keep learning because of the familiarity they have built into their background knowledge. The fun part for me is that all this knowledge came naturally through browsing and reading a picture book. Please note that most people think picture books are for very young children. However, the nature of some of the stories are absolutely not appropriate for small kids but have endless value to older students who can comprehend more difficult historic time periods, events, and vocabulary.
Before-Reading: Have a map or globe handy and look for Italy. Do you remember when you were a kid and looked for the country that looked like a boot? Talk about Europe and the other continents. Talk about where your family comes from and make plans to celebrate your heritage. What is a fool? How can people act foolishly? Is it okay to make fun of people who are different? Talk about goals and having the courage to try things you like or that you are good at doing.
During-Reading: Stop here and there to talk about the clothing. Do you think everyone dressed like that during this time period? So, to them, did they look odd? What is it about Pippo that makes him the subject of name calling and teasing? Look carefully at the size of the people in the illustrations in proportion to the size of the dome. Why was it so challenging to build this type of structure back then? How is building large structures different today? What other structures can you think of that are very old (pyramids).
After-Reading: Who changed in the story? How? What words can you think of to describe Pippo? Try to avoid using nondescript words like, “nice.” Try to expand your child’s vocabulary by helping them choose better words like courageous, smart, talented, etc. Then, help your child look for examples in the story. Do you think Pippo was a genius or a fool? Why? Have an Italian day and cook, bake and play games – all things Italian.
Explore your heritage, traditions, customs. Find family photos and talk to older relatives. Does your child enjoy drawing, doodling, cooking, or tinkering. Find ways to develop those talents. Not every child is suited to be an athlete. Let’s help nurture other talents and pleasures. There are local shops for art, dance, music, writing, karate, and science museums that encourage hands-on exploration.
Look into the Cinderella books from various countries. For more Renaissance learning, try Marguerite Makes a Book, Johann Gutenburg and the Amazing Printing Press, Starry Messenger (Galileo), Michelangelo, and The Bard of Avon http://amazon.com.
Explore http://amazon.com. However, don’t be misled by grade levels and Lexile levels (reading level) of books. In my opinion, picture books are meant to be read to a child (at least the first time) and discussed with an adult who can guide their thinking and elicit ideas. It’s like driving alone in a car versus with others with whom you can share the sites and ideas. Read by the pool with some Italian cookies and iced tea. Don’t have a pool? Sit in the yard or park under some trees.
Take a look at TooMuchTuscany . http://www.toomuchtuscany.com I want to thank my new friend there who I happened to find on Facebook when a friend of mine “Liked” her site. I shared the title of this wonderful book and, in return, I have enjoyed a pictoral tour of Tuscany. Look at the picture of the illuminated Dome of the Cathedral of Florence on her recent post after reading about Pippo. It is a marvel to see in real time. Perhaps it will motivate you to plan a family vacation to Italy. Happy Reading!