Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bella and Harry; Let's Visit Instanbul! - review

On impulse, I requested a children's book from NetGalley.  I thought I would see what was on offer for possible reading to my grandchildren....  I was not dissappointed.

Written by Lisa Manzione
Illustrated by Kristine Lucco

Cited from the Website - "The Adventures of Bella & Harry is a picture book series that chronicles the 
escapades of a pup named Bella, her little brother Harry and their family, who 

travel the world exploring the sights and sounds of new, exciting cities. 

the world with these two cute and cuddly Chihuahuas will allow the young 
reader to gain an appreciation of the world and its cultural diversity.

The “Bella and Harry” series is intended to be an informative, interactive and 
exciting way to introduce children to travel, different countries, customs, history 
and landmarks. 

The series was created to encourage exploration of locations

both domestically and internationally"

What a fun way to learn about cities throughout the world.  Using chihuahua puppies as characters (who doesn't love a chihuahua - heck, who doesn't love PUPPIES?), Lisa Manzione teaches in a painless manner about a city; she features architecture, food, culture, and landmarks among the information.  There is even a little lesson about safety; staying together and not getting separated from your family. 
All of the information is given through the use of conversation between Bella and her brother chihuahua, Harry.  They talk about (and eat) food, they explore together, they look at things and ask questions.  Even a myth was mentioned.  Harry really wants to ride a magic carpet - he asks a few times, though Bella keeps telling him there is no such thing.  :) I enjoyed this.  

This is a book that will hold interest for a second or third grader, and I believe even a Kindergardener would benefit a bit from reading this.  Though a Kinder might not understand everything, it would be a good start, and I can imagine a child having this read to her/him and then later doing some reading of this same text on their own - getting even more from the book as they grow.

The pictures are wonderfully crafted by Kristine Lucco.  The puppies are very cute, the buildings are beautifully drawn and I love that the people are the COLOR they are supposed to be.  No whitewashing here - and this is important.  Lucco's style of art is beautiful.  

Both text and graphics portray food, geography, landmarks, people, even products -- in this case, Bella and Harry visited the huge Bazaar where everything from carpets to lamps to food and spices is available.

Another thing I like is that there are a few words peppered in the text of the language spoken in the city.  "Merhaba" - hello,
"Elveda"  - goodbye, "Evet" - yes, and "Hayir" - no.  I would have liked a pronunciation guide, phonetic would be good - but didn't see one.  

My only complaint isn't with context or words within the book, but there were a couple pages where the text was difficult to read because it tended to blend in with the illustration.  I've seen this in a few picture books, and wish publishers (or whoever plans out the layout) would take the color of ink into consideration with the color of the page that surrounds the text.  It's hard to read black ink on dark brown (in another book I've read), thin black ink in a picture full of lines (found on a couple pages in this book), etc.

I took a quick look at the Bella and Harry website where I found a page with some fun activities that are interactive - you can have your child (even a group of kids in a class can do this on a group of computers) do a word match, packing game, coloring activities and a flag match game.  Good way to reinforce some of the information.  A FUN way to learn.  I think a teacher would find this very useful.
There is even a sample interactive e-book!
I also found a page for teachers, with links for pdf lesson plans that include things like crosswords, vocabulary matching, etc.  (FREE!)

I would recommend this book, and series for people who enjoy reading about other places, children, teachers and parents/grandparents.  Again, I think this is a very fun way to learn about cities and cultures throughout the world.

Lisa Manzione has written quite a few books in this series - London, Paris, Cairo...and there are some fun products available.  Though I usually am not into pimping out products for sale, there are some fun things available;backpacks, shirts, etc.
Kristine Lucco not only illustrates books, she paints rooms; murals in rooms, children's rooms, bathrooms, etc. 


  1. Sounds adorable and yes, I do believe the author has the right formula with the puppies. ^_^ So cute!

    1. Puppies - way too cute for school... Oh wait, We're for the puppies in this instance. :)

      I loved the puppy characters, and the idea of them teaching the reader. Great idea. :)