It seems that most of the urban picture books I read have a New York City bias. This is not by grand design on my part; it is only natural that my local library would stock such books. As a result of this bias I try to search out books which are set in other cities, and I especially like finding ones set in non-U.S. cities. It's not as easy as it may seem, and most of them I come across by accident.
Candace Fleming's Gabriella's Song is one of those accidental finds, and it is so lovely. Whereas many city sounds books (like this one) focus on the cacophony of noises made by machines, Fleming draws our attention to gentler noises. The slap-slaps of laundry, the flap-flaps of pigeons, the bump-bumps of the gondolas and other sounds provide the inspiration for Gabriella's singing. In turn, Gabriella's song inspires the people of the city in different ways and brings them all together (The city as a linked community of unique individuals is a popular theme in many picture books.) at an outdoor symphony.
Giselle Potter's illustrations evoke the familiar enchanting feeling that we often get when looking at pictures of an old world city. The scenes show a variety of perspectives of the city and some fun touches: who doesn't love to know that even a brilliant composer hangs his underwear up to dry in his living room?
Big Kid says: Venice only has water instead of streets, right?
Little Kid says: Guitar!
Mom responds: Actually, sweetie, that's a cello.
Candace Fleming has a good classroom guide for this book.
Other Venice books which I have yet to read include, Olivia Goes to Venice, Guido's Gondola, This is Venice, Zoe Sophia's Scrapbook, I, Vivaldi