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*Pippo the Fool* by Tracey E. Fern, illustrated by Pau Estrada
Pippo the Fool
by Tracey E. Fern, illustrated by Pau Estrada
Grades 1-3 32 pages Charlesbridge February 2009 Hardcover    

Pippo the Fool, based on the true story of Filipo Brunelleschi, is about the goldsmith, clockmaker, sculptor and inventor who answers the town contest for someone who can design a dome for the cathedral in Florence.

Despite the snickering of Lorenzo Chilberti, the most famous sculptor in Florence, Pippo appears before the judges to present his ideas for the dome. The judges laugh at his ideas and call him crazy, but Pippo doesn’t give up; instead, he builds a model based on his ideas. The judges are impressed by the dome and agree to let Pippo build the dome, but on one condition – Pippo must work with Lorenzo.

Anguished by the choice to work with Lorenzo who only insults Pippo, or not build the dome, Pippo decides “I would truly be a fool to allow my pride to be bigger than my dome.” The construction of Pippo’s dome begins and leads Pippo to exhaustion. When he takes a day off to recover, Lorenzo is left to take over, and it becomes obvious to the judges and workers that Lorenzo has no idea what to do. When Pippo hears that Lorenzo was fired from the project by the judges, he returns to work quickly and receives full credit and praise for the final magnificent result.

Pippo the Fool is a story of determination and attaining goals in spite of adversity while introducing children to an aspect of history. Pippo struggles against society’s opinion of him and persuades the judges that his design for the dome is the best one. He also overcomes the challenge of working with an uncooperative partner.

His calculations and ponderings concerning the design and construction of the dome give a simple introduction to architecture. The back of the book tells the true story behind this book, giving a detailed explanation about the design and work on the dome.

The illustrator also explains her inspiration for her depiction of Pippo. From city scenes showing the landscape of an old world to the close-ups of Pippo working in his home, the illustrations are rich with detail and depict life in Italy around the 1370s. This book is filled with imagination and spirit. Highly recommended

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