The best books for middle grade kids traveling to Italy

Nancy McConnell Author Of Into the Lion's Mouth
By Nancy McConnell

The Books I Picked & Why

The Thief Lord

By Cornelia Funke, Christian Birmingham

Book cover of The Thief Lord

Why this book?

If you are taking kids to Italy, there is no better way to whet their appetites for travel than this rip-roaring adventure that’s as twisted and turned as the streets of Venice itself. This book helped me fall in love with Venice all over again. Orphan brothers run away to this magical city and find themselves a part of a merry band of street urchins headed by the mysterious Thief Lord. But what secret is their benefactor hiding? Who is he really and where does he disappear to every night? Determined to find the truth the brothers are pulled into an unforgettable magical mystery that’s as unexpected as the city itself. This book kept me up late and left me wanting more Venetian magic in my life! 

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Midnight in the Piazza

By Tiffany Parks

Book cover of Midnight in the Piazza

Why this book?

I discovered this book through a podcast I love about living the expat life. Thirteen-year-old Beatrice has landed in Rome with her professor father, and she would rather not be there. But Rome is full of wonders and Beatrice becomes entranced by the turtle fountain in the piazza outside her apartment, especially when those turtles seem to vanish. The author lives in Rome and is very knowledgeable about the art and culture of Italy, so I learned a lot about art and history without realizing I was learning at all. Middle grade readers will love the mystery, and who would not want to sneak into an ancient Roman building in the middle of the night to catch a thief? 

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The Mask of Aribella

By Anna Hoghton

Book cover of The Mask of Aribella

Why this book?

Here’s another magical adventure that has such potential to be a series. Set in a Venice that is full of actual magic this book will appeal to the Harry Potter lovers in your life. Aribella must use her newly found magic to save the city from a grim future at the hands of the villain Zio. Although a fantastical Venice there are plenty of true-to-life details like the Lion’s Mouth, gondolas, and a ruling doge. I really loved the twists at the end. Middle grade readers will be captivated. 

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Da Vinci's Cat

By Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Book cover of Da Vinci's Cat

Why this book?

Da Vinci’s Cat is the right book for middle grade readers who like some magic and mystery along with their history. This book slips between present-day New Jersey, where Beatrice is having to spend the summer with her moms in boring suburbia instead of in Italy with her grandparents like she usually does, and 1511 Rome where Federico is held hostage in the Pope’s palace. It’s a wonderful melding of times and places. I really enjoyed the addition of the cat, Juno into the mix as well. Famous artists Michelangelo, Rafael, and Leonardo Da Vinci all make appearances in the book. A definite winner for the middle grade set.

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This Is Rome

By Miroslav Sasek

Book cover of This Is Rome

Why this book?

This last book is a classic and part of a series that would be helpful for other travel adventures. It’s the only non-fiction book on the list. But it’s a great introduction for kids wanting to know more about the place they are travelling. While originally published in 1960 the book was updated in 2007. This is a great overall introduction to Rome and its history and a good place to start piquing a young traveler’s interest. 

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