Tino and the Pomodori by Tonya Russo Hamilton

 

In Tino and the Pomodori, Tonya Russo Hamilton tells the story of her father as a young boy in Italy, anticipating his favorite time of the year: the tomato (pomodori) harvest.

This book has everything I look for in a great children’s title, and some of you may remember from last year’s Armchair BEA… I’m terribly picky. The watercolor illustrations are stunning and keep the reader’s attention. The story is simple, sweet, and reads easily. Children will pick up Italian words and phrases, learn about Italian culture, and have a subtle science lesson in the life cycle of the tomato plant. Charlotte Mason would have certainly approved of this as a “living science” book.

C, who is almost 5, connected with the story right away. She made me pause a few pages in to get her a snack of fresh tomatoes (thankfully we had some in the fridge!), which she happily ate during the rest of the book. She loved that Tino has a nonno (Italian for grandfather) because that’s what she calls my father, and it’s not a word she hears often. She also fell in love with Giuseppe, the family’s beautiful black horse.

There is a healthy dose of Italian language in Tino and the Pomodori. The switches between English and Italian occur naturally, translations are obvious. There’s a glossary of terms in the back just in case, though I felt a pronunciation guide for anyone who might need it would have been helpful, too. C is used to her books being in either English or Italian, not both. I was surprised by how excited she was to hear both languages in one book – she actually commented on that.

I especially appreciated the focus on Italy’s traditional food culture of eating fresh, local ingredients prepared simply. I was reminded of walking through my neighbors’ fields as a kid and enjoying with them a late, leisurely meal of similar foods.

I’m not sure how much longer the picture book stage will last, but Tino and the Pomodori is going to have a place on our shelf.