Pat Byrne of Kids Europe’s Italy Discovery Journal is not a guidebook to Florence, Rome, and Venice. It’s an activity book dedicated to children traveling in all of Italy (with some focus on the major cities). It is a journal and play book for kids aged 6-16 – although perhaps 13/14 would be a more appropriate upper age range in my opinion, since don’t they all have blackberrys after that? Parents will enjoy both doing the activities and the results of children doing them (ie. a moment of silence, and smarter kids).
As many of you know, I do not have kids, but I’ve used this book in its digital download form to come up with ideas to keep younger visitors to Florence occupied. Now I have the print version in my hands because it’s one of the prizes for the arttrav writing contest, and I felt it deserved a full review.
Let me make clear that you can order this book in either download or print form. The download is a great deal, but it takes time because you have to print it out, cut it to size, and bind it. The advantage to this is that you can customize it yourself. This can be a pre-trip activity with the kids, OR can be done by adults to edit out things that are not age-appropriate or relevant to where you are visiting in Italy. Also, if you’re like me, you might be inspired to come up with some more activities, print them in the same style, and add to the book. For example, inspired by the “Vehicle Variety” checklist on page 96, I came up with a bunch of pictures of the newest 50cc engined and electric vehicles to invade the city, and a list of related questions.
The printed form comes spiral bound so it easily lies flat for optimum reading, writing, and colouring in. It is half A4 size and light enough to carry around all day so that you can whip it out when the kid gets bored.
The table of contents is divided topically into some of the most important aspects of Italian life. Food and Gelato is first on the list and was much appreciated by my 11 and 13 year old half brother and sister, who endeavoured to sample all the flavours on the gelato checklist found on page 8. Other categories are: shopping, churches and religion, every day life and popular culture, art and architecture, history, geography, cars and road fun, and then some specific exercises and local activities.
Most of the observations on Italian culture are bang on, and bringing them to kids’ attention helps them understand and deal with something different. As someone who lives here, I forget how weird it must be to an American child that time is read on a 24 hour clock, that the evil eye is still a concern, or that people talk with their hands… all points brought up by this book.
Pat Byrne knows all the tricks to get kids looking at and interested in what’s around them. Frankly, these tricks work on my university students too. Her activities ask children to observe (look at the euros and make a list of the denominations) and compare (in the USA, green is equated with money. Does that work here?). This book helps remind us that while adults might visit a place like Florence for the museums, for kids everything around them is new and worth observing. We can try to direct their attention to what we think is most important, but in understanding a culture, we might best combine our observation of architectural styles (page 72) with that of how Italians line up for the bus (page 53).
If you bring your child to Italy, make it a learning and fun experience with this book. Arttrav has other book recommendations for travel with children – please see the Arttrav Bookstore section dedicated to KID STUFF!
For more information, see Kids Europe: www.kidseurope.com
The book can be purchased on Amazon.com: