by Ann Weil
Listening age: 5+
Reading age: 9-10
To get every laugh out of your children that this book deserves, you must approach it with no less than 4 European accents for no less than 8 different characters! Count them--8! The laughs are going to come in response to your effort in bringing the dialog between characters to life. This is no time to be shy!
Capri and Anacapri share a tiny island off the western coast of Italy, near Naples. Nothing much happens in the sleepy community--especially not in the winter time. But then, three strangers sail onto shore in their red-sailed boat and the local fishman, Angelo, directs them to the inn of his friends, the Paganos.
The fictional three strangers include a Frenchman looking for adventure, a British painter looking for beauty, and a German bibliophile. Their stay represents a lot of income to the modest Italian family who dedicates themselves to making the traveler's stay happy. Everything is fine until the visitors start making plans to explore a near-by cove that the locals not only avoid, but refuse to even mention for its terrible history and the legend that grew from it.
In the end, the reader gets a wonderful geography lesson out of the story line that will send you to web for a search of pictures and information about this picturesque place.
I will caution you that there are some objectionable adjectives in the narrative--relatively mild words that we don't allow our children to use (st*pido, idi*t, etc.). Sometimes I censored right past them, but sometimes they were necessary in developing the character and relationship of Angelo to the others. Somehow, saying them in the heat of the moment in a heavy Italian accent takes the edge off.
Also, there is an occasion in which the mother of the family rebels against her homemaking duties for a time, but in her defense, she does it because the situation is desperate and she doesn't know what else to do. If you're hyper about such a theme, this might not be the story for you.
My favorite moment in the book came as the young innkeeper's son is faced with the heart-wrenching decision to choose the trip of a lifetime or to keep intact, a life-long friendship with one who is as close as a brother.
I'm happy to report that he chooses well.
I give this book the grade of "B."