Friday, September 16, 2016

Papa Piccolo

This week, we rowed Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley ... finally.  I say that because this is one of the first books in Volume 1 of FIAR, but I wanted to do a three-week long study of Italy later that covered three FIAR reads, so here we are ... finally.  Papa Piccolo is a darling book.  Amazon's synopsis of it reads, "The lion is the emblem of Venice, but the common cat rules its narrow streets and alleyways.  A prince among these feline rulers is Piccolo, and what a fine life he leads!  Especially after dark -- when the streets are full of possibilities!  Then one night, Piccolo makes a discovery that threatens his carefree life and his independence and starts him on a new and special kind of adventure." 
Our first "to do" with this book study was to learn more about its setting, Italy, specifically, Venice.  We mapped both in our DK Children's World Atlas (pages 60-61) ...
... then read about it in even more detail with our Usborne See Inside Great Cities flap book.  (We love these flap books!)
After that, we colored our story disk for this book and placed it on our world map.  (We think we needed a bigger map of Europe before we started rowing!)
Of course, we couldn't do a three-week long study of Italy without planning a lapbook.  So, we completed some of the Italy printables from  (The Clown of God will be next week's row.)
After our printables were complete, it was time for a couple of videos.  This first one is a fantastic video that takes you on a kids' tour of Venice.  We both enjoyed it and had fun spotting the cats and the other things that we saw in the book.

This is a short (but good) video on gondolas that we watched before we did our fun gondola project.
For our little gondola project, I used the coloring sheet at  I asked Maggie to color it while I found pictures of her and her cats to print and cut out for the inside.

Once we both had finished, I was excited to find this old scrapbook paper piece from an album I had made my parents of Venice!  We put our gondola and images on it for a perfect background!  It turned out so cute!
Maggie and her cats!
Just floating along the Grand Canal!  (We set this artwork aside for our lapbook.)
Once our artwork was complete, we completed the Italy page from this Maps to Color and Learn: Europe coloring book (picked up from Dollar Tree).
This, too, we set aside for our lapbook.
Next, we dressed up some dolls in our Usborne Sticker Dolly Dressing: Costumes Around the World sticker book for their Venetian Carnevale (pages 2-3).
Fancy!  This was saved for our lapbook.
And since we were talking Venetian dress, we went ahead and dressed our paper doll from Dover's Italian Girl and Boy Paper Dolls by Kathy Albert,  (Venice was represented on plate 6.)
In the story, the two kittens that tag along after Piccolo are named Marco and Polo, after the famous explorer.  This was a great time to research him.  To do that, we started with this video from the History Channel about him that we found on YouTube.
Next, we read about him in our Usborne See Inside Exploration and Discovery flap book.
Then we dressed him up in our Usborne Sticker: Dressing Explorers sticker book, pages 6 and 7.
 (Here are those pages before the stickers are added.)
And here is Marco, dressed and ready to explore!
 For our last exploration into Italy for this book (we will continue it with our next row next week), we made the recipes for this book out of The Five in a Row Cookbook, "Marina Sauce," "Biscotti," and "Ricotta Cake" (page 32).
We started with the biscotti, which I had never made before.
Here, Mags is kneading our dough.
 All done!
It looks good!
 For snack, we had a couple of pieces with "Italian coffee" (AKA: hot chocolate)!
Later, our marina sauce!  (This recipe made a ton, enough for me to save some for leftovers in the fridge and to separate into two more batches for the freezer for later nights!)
Maggie LOVED it and she is not a huge spaghetti eater.
And here is a picture of our Ricotta Cake, which was super moist and very good!
Next, we talked about the new vocabulary words we found in this book, some in Italian.  (We will make a list of these to add to our Italy lapbook after we start the next book next week.)  

It was then time to discuss the artwork of this book!  Itoko Maeno did a phenomenal job on the illustrations in Papa Piccolo, using rich layers of watercolor in complementary colors to add meaning to the text and characters.  I love her paintings.  To talk more about color, color matching, blending, mixing, and color theory (using complementary colors), we used The Usborne Art Book About Color by Rosie Dickins (pages 26-27 and 34, specifically).  (This image shows the British version of the book but I couldn't find a google image of the American version.)
After our discussion, I challenged her to use watercolor to mix colors to make an interesting painting of the water she might see in the Grand Canal.
She got right to work!
Her finished painting was beautiful, very rich with color with lots of mixing!
 Also in the book, we noted the illustrator's use of blurry lines to create the illusion of speed.  (This is the part where the two kittens beat Piccolo to his pastry.)
To demonstrate these blurred lines, we used one of her stuffed cats ...
 ... with a clear pattern on her back, and tied a thin string around her.
 Then, holding her up by the string ...
 ... we swung her around and snapped this picture to show how her body blurred and how you could no longer make out the pattern of her coat.  This explained the artist's painting in the book.
And, of course, we couldn't complete the art study of this book without decorating our own Venetian mask!  I bought this mask form at the craft store and she immediately started decorating it.
 I loved watching her work!
Next, she added feathers (ignore the binder clips, helping to hold them on as they dry).  I love the cross and Tree of Life that she added.
All done!  (I didn't realize until after this picture was taken that she was wearing her cat shirt today!)
 Masked Maggie!
 For math, we completed the "Cat Math" worksheet (multiplication and division) that we found at
We talked about cat breeds next, reading about many in this DK Eyewitness CAT book by Juliet Clutton-Brock, then identified the different breeds throughout Papa Piccolo.
And we couldn't forget Madeline and the Cats of Rome by John Bemelmans Marciano!  (We have read this book dozens of times because we love it so much!)  It went perfectly with this study!
We decided to assemble the little paper cats we saw at, printing the template on orange and gray paper to make two cats that resemble our own pet cats.
Our little Emmett and Ellie models!  (These were super easy to put together!)
Next, we wanted to make some of the adorable little cat bookmarks we saw at  They turned out great and Maggie is quite proud of them!
How sweet are these??
They hold our book pages perfectly!
These would make sweet little gifts for her friends.

So that's our row of Papa Piccolo!  We LOVED this read and will be taking it off our shelf many more times I believe!  Next up is The Clown of God as we continue our tour of Italy.  Check back with us!

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