"Venice has a secret, and you know if you open your mind and search deep enough you might discover more than you imagined."

This magical novel begins with the promise of a journey unlike anything ever seen before. Following the adventures of 15-year-old Fantina, a self-proclaimed explorer who comes to Venice in 1902 at the request of her uncle, it delivers just that. Fantina makes her way from an orphanage in Boston to find her Uncle Gio at work restoring one of the old churches of Venice. The adventurous Fantina is intrigued by this work and recalls her father saying that Gio’s work restores not only the architecture of the city but its stories and legends as well. When later she is approached by a white pigeon that suddenly becomes a fairie, Fantina embarks on a fabulous adventure leading her through the streets and history of Venice as she seeks to discover what secrets the city holds.

Just as patrons of the gondoliers are swept past 14 centuries of architectural marvels and regaled with tales of Venice’s history, so are the readers of Mazzucato’s captivating tale. Written for middle-grade readers and older, the author masterfully weaves his tale of adventure by creating colorful characters, introducing historical figures, and delighting readers with a strong female protagonist. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the author’s novel is his use of Venice’s architecture as not only the setting but as a character in the novel. Mazzucato does indeed evoke a sense of wonder in his description of Venice. From its sometimes ominous shadows of gargoyles to its winding alleyways and, of course, the ever-present flow of water, he leaves the reader with the impression of a city come alive. Part history lesson, part adventure, part fantasy, but all pleasure, this is one of those books that grabs the imagination from the first sentence and never lets go.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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