Year I Didn't Go to School


These are the best things that happened to me the year I didn't go to school:

  • Traveled around Italy with my family's theatre troupe.
  • Performed in a theatre outside. (I was a monkey, a panda, and a ...
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These are the best things that happened to me the year I didn't go to school:

  • Traveled around Italy with my family's theatre troupe.
  • Performed in a theatre outside. (I was a monkey, a panda, and a lion!)
  • Ate spaghetti with fried egg on top.
  • Slept in a truck.
  • Wove cowboy boots.
  • Ciao! (I spoke Italian.)
  • Kept a journal to remember everything that happened.

Relates the experiences of children's author Giselle Potter when, at the age of seven, she toured Italy with her family's tiny theater company, The Mystic Paper Beasts.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her first venture as both writer and illustrator, Potter (Gabriella's Song) proves as adept with words as she is with images, spinning a lyrical account of the year she toured Italy with her family's theater troupe. After packing their steamer trunks with "puppets, masks, and musical instruments," their grandparents see them off at the airport. Then seven-year-old Giselle, her little sister, Chloe, and their parents are off in an old wooden carnival truck across "the country that's shaped like a boot." From their not-so-stellar debut at a piazza in Florence (the police scold them for not having a permit, their truck gets stuck in a narrow street and they are rescued by nuns) to their grand finale performance in Rome, Potter wisely filters her reminiscences through the eyes of her child-self. She alights on details most likely to intrigue a young audience (such as "bread you could roll up into little balls" and a circus performer named Eva "who could hang by her long hair and play the tuba"). The captivating account makes the exotic setting come alive (e.g., "We ate little pizzas with thin crusts until our bellies puffed up, and watched people dancing under the sparkly lights"), as does the fittingly quirky mixed-media artwork. Her instantly recognizable elongated faces and disproportionate bodies all arms and legs particularly suit her free-spirited family. Endpapers sporting journal entries, homework assignments, drawings and more from Potter's original trip make the foreign backdrop immediately accessible. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-The title is certain to pique children's curiosity, and the quirky autobiographical story will quickly pull them in. Potter's first-person narration describes the year her family's theater troupe traveled throughout Italy, living in a truck amid their masks, puppets, and musical instruments. The illustrator's signature figures, with almond-shaped heads and curved legs that end in tiny feet, take to the stage in costumes with transparent veils and papier-mache heads, enacting whimsical tales. Potter's pencil, ink gouache, and watercolor scenes capture classic details of Italian culture, from the pigeons, roasted chestnuts, and fountains to the chastising glances of the nuns and the unyielding behavior of the espresso drinkers. The text is sprinkled with rhymed journal pages, Italian phrases, and a "picture dictionary" restaurant tablecloth. The endpapers reproduce pieces of Potter's actual childhood journal; she was seven at the time. Anyone who has lived or traveled abroad will relate to the child's perspective of a new culture. Others will be fascinated with the troubadour lifestyle, e.g., toddler Chlo' sleeping in a drawer, a serendipitous encounter with a stranger that leads to a pizza garden party. A madcap journey from a gifted storyteller.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Potter (Brave Little Seamstress, p. 576, etc.) draws from family history for her first solo turn, recalling a tour of Italy that her puppeteering family undertook when she was seven. Her memories are both vivid-"Tiny cars filled with big families zoomed every which way, big men drank coffee from tiny cups, and the air was full of new smells"-and episodic-buying fruit wrapped in pretty papers at a market, lining up shoes on the dashboard before going to sleep in the back of a carnival truck, racing around the piazza in Assisi in new cowboy boots. A collage of actual pictures and comments from her original diary decorates both sets of endpapers; in between, she puts small figures of her parents, herself, and her little sister, often in theatrical masks and costumes, into uncluttered scenes, placing visual emphasis on faces and feelings. Fans of Tomie DePaola's ongoing autobiography, or Patricia Polacco's sentiment-steeped reminiscences, will enjoy this glimpse of a decidedly unconventional childhood sojourn. (author's note) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689847301
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.32 (w) x 10.33 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Author front row, center.

Giselle Potter is the illustrator of more than ten books for children, but this is the first that she's both written and illustrated. It also just happens to be true. Her other titles include The Brave Little Seamstress and Kate and the Beanstalk, both by Mary Pope Osborne, The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack, and Gabriella's Song by Candace Fleming. The little girl who traveled the world now lives in Rosendale, New York.

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