I quite like Tim Egan's books about Dodsworth. The series was launched from the picture book The Pink Refrigerator, about how the stodgy Dodsworth learns to live life to the fullest. However, the Dodsworth books really took off as an easy reader series when the character of Duck was added. I've also reviewed Dodsworth in New York and Dodsworth in Paris (there is also Dodsworth in London). But I think that Dodsworth in Rome is my new favorite.
Dodsworth in Rome, as advertised, finds regular guy Dodsworth and his crazy sidekick Duck visiting Rome. They visit the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain, and a flea market. They ride a scooter, and participate (well, Duck does) in a pizza throwing contest. When they temporarily misplace their money, they sleep on the Spanish Steps.
As you can see, Dodsworth in Rome does provide a window into the major sites of Rome. But what makes this work as an early reader is the humor, a mix of goofball kid-friendly humor and wry adult humor. Here are a few examples:
"Dodsworth smiled and looked at the duck. "Rome!" he said.
"Okay, said the duck."
The duck started walking away.
"Where are you going? asked Dodsworth.
"You said roam," said the duck. "So I'm roaming."
Funny and educational for new readers.
"Dodsworth and the duck ordered gelatos.
Dodsworth got a cone with three scoops: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
The duck got a cone with seven scoops: hazelnut, spumoni, rum raisin, almond, pistachio, coffee, and butterscotch."
That, in a nutshell, is the duck's personality as compared to Dodsworth's, in terms that will make complete sense for young readers (though they might need a bit of help with words like spumoni).
"They walked to Saint Peter's Square.
There were huge columns all around.
"I feel smaller than usual," said the duck.
"You can say that again," said Dodsworth.
But the duck decided not to.
That made me laugh. And when the duck notices that the Sistine Chapel is lacking any ducks in the painting... Look out! Laugh out loud humor in only six lines of text per page.
Egan's ink and watercolor illustrations enhance the story, and help to provide visual cues for new learners. All of the major sites of Rome are there, set against more prosaic details, like Dodworth's little suitcase, and the detritus of a knocked-over fruit stand. Egan uses a somewhat muted color palette, so that the words retain equal importance to the pictures.
Dodsworth doesn't have a very wide range of expressions, but when he smiles, you want to smile with him. And the duck can convey quite a lot through head tilts.
I will be keeping my Dodsworth and duck books handy for when Baby Bookworm is ready to learn to read, and probably diving into them by myself on occasion in the meantime. The solemn but determined Dodsworth and the madcap duck are always a winning combination, but especially so in the new Dodsworth in Rome. Don't miss it!
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (@HMHBooks)
Publication Date: April 18, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).