There's a Dolphin in the Grand Canal

There's a Dolphin in the Grand Canal

by John Bemelmans Marciano
Nothing ever happens in Venice. At least that's how Luca feels as hespends his summer vacation bored and unhappy in his family's café. Then one day he spies something wonderful in the Grand Canal: a dolphin. Can it be? It is! Luca hops on the dolphin's back and is treated to an unbelievable ride high above the Bridge of Sighs, past a surprised gondolier,


Nothing ever happens in Venice. At least that's how Luca feels as hespends his summer vacation bored and unhappy in his family's café. Then one day he spies something wonderful in the Grand Canal: a dolphin. Can it be? It is! Luca hops on the dolphin's back and is treated to an unbelievable ride high above the Bridge of Sighs, past a surprised gondolier, and right over the heads of his disbelieving parents.

Author Bio: John Bemelmans Marciano carries on the legacy begun by his grandfather, Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of the Madeline books, with stunning watercolor artwork and playful, energetic storytelling. John Bemelmans Marciano is the author and illustrator of several other books including Delilah and Bemelmans: The Life and Art of Madeline's Creator. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Marciano's (Delilah) tale begins with a dry guidebook tone, before introducing Luca Buca, living in Venice with his parents who run a cafe ("Poor kid-look at him, so bored and lonely, stuck in here all summer with his parents"). Each afternoon, Luca passes through St. Mark's Square to mope by the Grand Canal. The scenery is Marciano's strong suit, with meticulously painted brickwork and golden touches on the Doges' Palace rooftops. One afternoon, a dolphin splashes Luca and performs "a reverse backflip with a corkscrew finish." But no one else notices: the tourists bury their noses in guidebooks and Luca's father condescendingly lectures the boy on fish varieties found in the Grand Canal (none of which is dolphin). When Luca drags his skeptical parents to the Canal ("scusi-scusi-scusi"), no dolphin appears ("I'm sure it was a very nice dolphin too, dear," his mother says). The minute they turn away, the dolphin arrives, boards Luca on its back, "and they took off... zip!" Marciano's human characterizations are uneven (at times Luca looks 10, other times 25), but he does treat readers to an aesthetically pleasing tour of the city, via Luca's wild ride, through the arches of the bridge at Rialto, past laundry lines on a quaint back street and (literally) over the Bridge of Sighs. Italian words pepper the tale, as do tourists' comments in various tongues. This dolphin-and-boy adventure makes for an entertaining introduction to Venice. Ages 4-up. (June) Lotsa de Casha Madonna, illus. by Rui Paes. Callaway (Penguin, dist.), $19.95 (48p) ISBN 0-670-05888-2 In the fifth of Madonna's moral tales, the greyhound-headed merchant Lotsa de Casha discovers that hoarding brings misery, but giving brings joy. Like its predecessors, Madonna's artless fable is improved by the illustrations. Paes, a Portuguese artist, makes his children's book debut with this tongue-in-cheek homage to classic Baroque painting. His meticulously rendered foppish heroes, the greyhound merchant and his newfound friend, the bull-headed Mr. Forfilla, sport lace collars and high boots, and pose against Mediterranean landscapes dotted with terracotta rooftops and cypress groves. Passages of text often appear in gilded architectural frames, and trompe l'oeuil abounds. By contrast, the text unfolds simplistically: "Lotsa was by far the richest man in the country. He had everything that money could buy. But there was a teeny, tiny problem. No matter how much money Lotsa de Casha made, he wasn't happy." Through the calamity of piracy, and the kindness of Mr. Forfilla-whom he once snubbed-Lotsa de Casha learns his lesson. Meanwhile, subversively, Paes actually seems to celebrate the wealth Lotsa de Casha repudiates. The furniture the formerly rich Mr. Forfilla donates to the poor is lovingly painted, and even Lotsa's underwear is elegantly tailored. However, Lotsa's lowbrow accent is not only grating ("Now I have alla da money a man could want, but still I'ma not happy"), it seems uncharacteristic of a rich gentleman. Despite the mismatch, this is a sumptuous visual treat. Ages 8-up. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Right from the start, the author uses attention-getting language to satisfy readers and listeners, when he says, "Imagine a city in the middle of the sea." He refers to the Grand Canal of Venice. In this fanciful tale, a small bakery stands beside it, where Luca Buca, a young boy, spends his summer vacation wanting to be outside. When he finally does get outside, he discovers a dolphin in the Grand Canal. Unfortunately he is the only one who sees it. But the dolphin rescues him when he almost falls into the canal. He takes a high-flying adventure around the city and becomes a great attraction for many, including his parents. Fun and frolic fill several pages of the book. Italian words are casually thrown in with the text. They add a nice touch because the context makes them understandable. Wispy illustrations by the author add flavor to the tale. Even word placement on the pages adds to the visual picture. Place this book on the shelf of any school library or elementary classroom. It offers a fun way for youngsters to think about their own worlds and the excitement to be found in them. 2005, Viking/Penguin Young Readers Group, Ages 4 to 8.
—Nancy Garhan Attebury
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-Although this story takes place in Venice, all children will relate to the experience of the protagonist who has seen something incredible and is unable to convince his parents that he's telling the truth. Luca Buca helps his family at their caffe, even in the summer when his friends are all off on wonderful vacations. During his afternoon break, he sees a playful dolphin in the Grand Canal, but his parents are skeptical about this news. The animal emerges again, after they have gone about their business, and Luca is in for the time of his life: he sits astride the soaring creature, waving to sightseers (and ultimately Mamma and Papa) as he flies over gondolas, wash lines, and bridges. Marciano's watercolors, employing a variety of perspectives, capture the grandeur and diversity of Venetian architecture and the magical quality of the liquid streets. The adult figures have an Old World charm; the artist is less successful with the proportions and facial characteristics of the child. A glossary translates the Italian phrases spoken by Luca within the visuals and the comments in multiple languages uttered by tourists-a touch that adds humor and interest. An author's note distinguishes fact from fiction and explains the connection between the gondola's fin and dolphins. Both Italophiles and those being introduced to Venetian culture for the first time will enjoy this romp.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Lonely and bored, Luca would love to play outside in the summer sun rather than help run the family cafe in Venice. Grateful to leave early one afternoon, he walks toward the Grand Canal to find hordes of tourists crowding St. Mark's Square. Missing his wintertime playmates who are on vacation, Luca laments his predicament as he sits along the steps of the canal. Suddenly, he's surprised by the unlikely appearance of a dolphin. Angered and embarrassed when the dolphin hides from his unbelieving and less than amused parents, Luca falls into the canal in a moment of heated ranting, lands on the submerged dolphin's back and takes off on a wild, adventurous romp through the city of waterways as dolphin and boy leap over and under bridges, gondolas, hanging laundry and astonished onlookers. Marciano, grandson of the famous creator of the Madeleine books, has embedded choice Italian phrases within his colorfully painted scenes of Venice, adding to the ambiance and symbolic flavor of the city and its residents. Imaginative and playful. (glossary, author's note) (Picture book. 3-6)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

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