Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Treasures of Venice by Paola Zoffoli and Dario Cestaro

See book information at bottom of post.

The Treasures of Venice
by Paola Zoffoli and Dario Cestaro

Book Review by Sharon Powers

I have a rare chance to review for you, today, a new pop-up book, just released this month (September 10, 2013). I was so excited when I discovered this book was coming out. I preordered it so I could have it just as soon as it was available. I love all manner of books and genres, including pop-up books, like this one. 

This is a book for children of all ages (from 10 and up). The little girl in me delights in turning the pages and watching scenes--literally--unfold before me. 

Let's start with the cover. All six of Venice's landmarks as they appear on the front cover (see above, top left) are in beautiful pastel colors and the texture of the book is smooth and silky. It feels wonderful in my hands and appeals to my eye.

The back cover shows all six
pop-up landmarks that appear
on the inside of the book.
The back cover shows the landmarks popped open so you can see them the way they appear inside the book itself. Alright, I guess you can tell that I really like the cover, and I even like the title of the book.
All good, so far.

Six beautiful Venetian landmarks - six Venetian treasures: Let's take a look at the most interesting part of the book. Yes, that's right...the pop-ups themselves. I thought you might be interested in seeing what the real-life version of the pop-ups look like (that is, if you haven't already taken a trip to Venice and seen them in person). the left I have provided a thumbnail photo of the real article for you to compare to the pop-up paper version of Venice's treasures.
Ponte di Rialto

The first pop-up in the book is the Ponte di Rialto bridge: As you can see from the photograph (just below and left), the colors in the pop-up book (on the right) seem to reflect the colors from the real-life bridge as it spans the Grand Canal.

 Ponte di Rialto
Venice, Italy
Two lift-the-flaps appear below the pop-up telling the history of the bridge and  details about "the hunchback" on the bridge and "the market" on one side of the Grand Canal that draws visitors from near and far.

The book doesn't open up and lay flat;
Additionally, all pop-ups are created 
in the same unimaginative manner.

To view the pop-ups, you need to open the book to a 90 degree angle to make them pop-up. This is a bit unusual as most of the pop-up books I've read open a full 180 degrees so you can open them up flat without having to hold the book cover. If you were to force them to lie flat, of course, you would ruin the pop-ups.

If you stand the book up,
the pop-ups are sideways.
I suppose you could prop the book up against a wall or other object to hold it for you. The construction is just a little strange--you have to hold the book in your hands to look at it. When you lay the book down on the table the book won't stay where it is placed. This seems to be a major flaw in the book, even if the paper pop-ups actually pop up. OK, let's move on.

Basilica di San Marco pop-up.

Basilica di San Marco
Venice, Italy

Turn to the second page and you find the Basilica di San Marco.

Open the page 90 degrees, to see the basilica. Two identical lift-the-flaps appear below the basilica telling about its opulence and about the horse statues stolen from Constantinople as "war booty" by Napoleon. The other lift-up-flap details St. Mark's bell tower.

The next pop-up wonder is the Ca' d'Oro, "A palace fretted like an elegant jewel that reflects in the waters of the Grand Canal..."

Ca' d'Oro
Venice, Italy

Again you open the book to 90 degrees to pop-up the building. 

The two "lift-the-flaps" explain that Ca' d'Oro means "gilt house." At one time the building was gilt and glistened in the waters of the Grand Canal--though, sadly, the gilt has been stripped from its surface and is long gone.

The second flap, on the right, tells of the numerous treasures and about the "secret treasures of the courtyard."

Palazzo Ducate
Venice, Italy
The Palazzo Ducate comes after the "gilt house" pop-up, above, and as you can see in the photograph, the real Palazzo Ducate is also on the Grand Canal. Again, you open the book page to 90 degrees to activate the pop-up. The information in the lift-up-flaps tell the reader about the "Bridge of Sighs, statues, images within the palace, and of the largest oil painting in the world: Paradise, by Tintoretto.

No, unfortunately, the Bridge of Sighs is not one of the six pop-ups in this book. I was sorely disappointed in this regard.

Gran Teatro La Fenice
The next to last landmark is the Gran Teatro La Fenice.

Gran Teatro La Fenice
Venice, Italy

It, too, pops open at 90 degrees to reveal the fold open treasure. The first of the two lift-the-flaps describe the numerous times it was destroyed by fire, and the rebuilding(s) of the theater.

The second flap tells of Napoleon's conquest and subsequent protest by Venetians who uttered the phrase, "Viva Verde" and tossed red, white and green flowers on the opera stage as a symbol of protest to the regime.

The final pop-up landmark is Basilica della Salute
Basilica della Salute

Basilica della Salute
Venice, Italy
The ubiquitous 90 degree pop-up reveals the Basilica. The lift-the-flaps information tells the reader how buildings like the basilica were constructed to be able to withstand the water and elements. I found this information very intriguing, but wished for more substance.

Flap two informs us about the "Festa Della Salute," a holiday celebrated every year on November 21st.

What I think about the book. 

I loved the book cover, its use of color, texture, and even the title. I also loved the use of color throughout the book. The pop-up buildings are recognizable, even if the pop-ups were simply designed. Also, the information provided in the lift-the-flaps was interesting, even if abbreviated.

Additionally, I thought that with a book of this nature, much more information could have been provided by creating other smaller pop-up vignettes on each page. Other pop-up books I have read utilize a variety of methods such as maps you can pull out and unfold, tabs that reveal additional information, a wheel that when turned let's you see a variety of conditions for the scene, mini antiqued books that can be pulled out from a slot on the side of the page, additional fold out sections, and so on. I found the information interesting, but inadequate--it just left me wanting more. 

One other thing bothered me about the book. My biggest criticism of the book is the uniformity of the pop-ups, lift-up-flaps, and perhaps to put it more simply, the general layout of the book. The pop-up engineering was overly simplistic--it would have been OK for one building to be engineered that way, but to me, having them all engineered the same simplistic way was just not interesting. I expected more for my $18.34. 

    My rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

No Rating.                                      Goodreads                
No Rating.                                      New York Times      
No Rating.                                      Barnes and Noble    
One Star.                                       AMAZON Rating (I could only find one reviewer for                                                                                   this book, as it is so newly released.)

The following YouTube video is about famous landmarks in Venice, Italy. How many of the famous landmarks in this short 5 minute video can you spot that were included in The Treasures of Venice pop-up book? You might enjoy seeing them on film. I enjoyed this short video and hope you will also enjoy a quick mini-vacation to Venice as you watch this video. 

The Treasures of Venice pop-up book Product Details:
Publisher: Marsilio; Pop edition (September 10, 2013)
Hardcover: 16 pages
Book dimensions 8.7 x 8.7 x 0.9
Shipping weight: 15.5

All photographs of the pop-up book were taken by me on my digital camera; see Treasures of Venice pop-up book, above (and further references, below).