Mia Discovers Florence
by Alexandria Pereira

"These artists, scientists, engineers, and writers discovered their great ideas by reading old books, looking at old drawings, and studying old buildings."

Mia and her grandmother return to explore their Italian heritage in this colorful final volume of the series. The children's concept book opens with Mia painting a canvas of her new puppy, Licorice. This reminds Grandma of how their Neanderthal ancestors painted animals on cave walls. With her history book in hand, Grandma takes Mia on a journey from pre-history to the establishment of an Etruscan village where the city of Florence stands today. Together they visit Florence during the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, and beyond. There's a special focus upon "the need for art, culture, and innovation," and the text handily introduces Italy's outstanding architecture, sculpture, painting, literature, and music in bite-sized segments. The story is a good introduction for kids to the universally revered Italian artisans and designers such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and others.

The familiar home and family setting make the presentation of historical facts a warm and enjoyable experience. The timeline with additional facts and events plus a page of "education support activities" in the back matter are useful tools for students in school settings or home study. The vocabulary and reading level are more advanced than a typical fully illustrated picture book, so the story is a read-to for younger kids. The shorter than normal length provides a quick read for busy middle graders with their short attention spans and likely appreciation of artwork that enlivens the facts and concepts. The youthful author clearly demonstrates her love of "the mystery of history" with an imaginative flair that will undoubtedly appeal to young readers.

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