Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Pippo the Fool

Pippo the Fool

5.0 1
by Tracey E. Fern, Pau Estrada (Illustrator)

See All Formats & Editions

Was Pippo the Fool really Pippo the Genius?

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence was a marvel of art, architecture, and engineering. But it lacked a finishing ornament, a crown—a dome! The city fathers had a solution: to invite the finest masters to compete for the chance to design a dome. The rumors of this contest reached the ears of


Was Pippo the Fool really Pippo the Genius?

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence was a marvel of art, architecture, and engineering. But it lacked a finishing ornament, a crown—a dome! The city fathers had a solution: to invite the finest masters to compete for the chance to design a dome. The rumors of this contest reached the ears of Filippo Brunelleschi, better known in Florence as Pippo the Fool. As soon as he heard about the contest, Pippo knew it was the chance he had been waiting for. "If I can win the contest, I will finally lose that nickname once and for all!"

This book tells the story of the construction of an architectural masterpiece—Brunelleschi's Dome. Tracey E. Fern depicts Pippo's prickly personality with humor and warmth, and Pau Estrada's richly detailed illustrations bring Renaissance Florence to life. An excellent way to introduce kids to an important moment in Western engineering and history.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In fifteenth century Florence, a contest is announced for the best design of a dome for the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Filippo Brunelleschi, a goldsmith called Pippo the Fool for his practice of designing peculiar machines and structures, vows to win. No one has been able to figure out how to build a dome of the necessary size. Pippo studies the problem and prepares sketches. The contest judges eliminate him. But he builds a model, and the judges are impressed. However, to his anger, they insist that he work with the sneering, arrogant Lorenzo Ghilberti. Overcoming his pride, Pippo begins. It takes sixteen years to finish—without Ghilberti—but the result is the marvel we can see today. Estrada takes pains to depict Florence with historic thoughtfulness. At the same time, his characters are effectively humorous. Lorenzo is depicted with foolish bravado, while Pippo has youthful arrogance. The detailed watercolor-and-gouache scenes with crowds of citizens are informative as well as attractive; the images of the building in process and finished at last are truly impressive. Notes by both author and illustrator add factual information. Includes a list of resources for those who want to learn more. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

Gr 2-4

A slice of history is served à la Florentine for the delectation of curious minds in this revealing portrait of genius Filippo Brunelleschi. Determined and stubborn, he vies with a more physically and cosmetically advantaged rival in a competition to select the designer and builder of a dome to grace Renaissance Florence's grand cathedral. Estrada's excellent watercolor and gouache illustrations detail 1400s Florence perfectly, from costumes to workshops to construction sites to the soaring towers projecting above the red rooftops crammed inside the city walls. Fern's humorous text brings Pippo's crabby persona to cranky life as he ponders, sketches, schemes, calculates, and competes his way to a glorious completed dome and lasting fame. Extended author's and illustrator's notes answer questions that may be raised by the simple text, and a short list of resources (adult materials) is appended. This neat blend of fact and fiction is as seamlessly constructed as the intricate brickwork of the dome on the Duomo.-Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

Kirkus Reviews
Fern presents the tale of Filippo Brunelleschi's unlikely bid to win the right to construct the dome for Florence's cathedral. The slim story attempts to describe the challenge: to build a dome that would retain its beauty yet support its tremendous weight. Irreverently referred to as "Pippo the Fool" for his dabbling with "peculiar machines" and "outlandish structures," Brunelleschi nevertheless presents an ingenious plan to float the dome over the cathedral with two domes, one inside the other. Colorful tile, marble and painted walls of Renaissance buildings provide a credible 15th-century Florentine setting. Estrada's palette and form, although more angular, are reminiscent of de Paola. The language, however, is uneven, jumping from lyrical descriptions of the cathedral to an awkward description of Brunelleschi's mood as a "bubble" in his chest. Regrettably for a book about architecture, neither text nor illustrations effectively convey to readers just exactly how the dome works, leaving them with a story of artistic determination, not genius. The backmatter provides some bricks and mortar for the story but may well be missed by young readers. (bibliography) (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Tracey E. Fern writes for various magazines and is the author of children's historical books including, BUFFALO MUSIC (Clarion), DARE THE WIND (FSG), and W IS FOR WEBSTER (Melanie Kroupa Books). She lives in West Newton, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Pippo the Fool 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
What pleasure to find a book for youngsters that is both thoroughly entertaining and educational. Young readers will smile and learn through the pages of Pippo The Fool. His given name was Filippo Brunelleschi but some five centuries ago there were those in Florence who called him Pippo the fool.

That city's Santa Maria del Fiore was amazing, an unparalleled example of architecture and engineering. It only lacked one thing - a dome. So, those in power decided to have a contest to determine who might design the dome. "The news swept across the broad piazzas and twisted through the narrow streets of Florence. `To design a dome for the cathedral,'the market women whispered over their plump purple figs."

Never had there been so much excitement! The word reached Pippo, a goldsmith who created beautifully delicate pieces but he wanted to do more. Much of his time was spent designing structures that people considered odd. He decided that if he could win the contest he would no longer be called Pippo the fool.

Renaissance masters including Lorenzo Ghiberti made fun of Pippo, saying no one would let him design even a simple shack. Although the construction of such a dome had puzzled Italian architects for a century, Pippo worked and worked, determined that he could do it. The judges scoffed at him and carried him out of the cathedral "like a platter of pasta." Still he persevered.

Youngsters will learn the value of determination, thoughtfulness and imagination in this colorful story of Filipo Brunelleschi. Pau Estrada's illustrations are a delight, bringing Renaissance Florence to us with bold bright full page paintings.

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke