Thursday, March 2, 2017

Dreaming Sophia: Book Spotlight

é bella! While I don't judge books by their covers, Dreaming Sophia: Because Dreaming is an Art caught my eye, due to its vibrant, colorful cover, which was designed and illustrated by the author, Melissa Muldoon. This author also has a dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta, and a special YouTube channel, to help others who wish to learn to speak Italian and to learn about the culture.

Here is my personal connection to Dreaming Sophia, which I hope to read, and all things Italian. Some of you may already know that I'm part Italian. My grandfather, Luigi, was from Sardinia.  He immigrated to Ellis Island, lived in NY, got married, and worked hard (he did something with boats at NY Harbor, I believe).  Grandpa was a gifted, ambidextrous musician who played the lute (and perhaps other instruments as well), and his eyes changed color.  He was fascinated by geography and was quite knowledgeable.  Perhaps because I was a skinny kid, he used to explain to me that there are three basic body types, ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph.  While I was growing up, Grandpa would bring our family the most delicious bread (and cheese) from a special Italian shop, which was probably the best I've ever tasted.  My mother, Lita Anna Maria, was proud of her Italian heritage (her homemade lasagna was world-class), and I am, too.  I'd love to travel to Italy in the future!

Below is more information about Dreaming Sophia, which was published in 2016, and author Melissa Muldoon.

Book Description:

Dreaming Sophia is a magical look into Italy, language, art, and culture. It is a story about turning dreams into reality and learning to walk the fine line between fact and fantasy. When tragedy strikes, Sophia finds herself alone in the world, without direction and fearful of loving again. With only her vivid imagination to guide her, she begins a journey that will take her from the vineyards in Sonoma, California to a grad school in Philadelphia and, eventually, to Italy: Florence, Lucca, Rome, Verona, Venice, and Val d’Orcia.

​Through dreamlike encounters, Sophia meets Italian personalities—princes, poets, duchesses, artists, and film stars— who give her advice to help put her life back together. Following a path that takes her from grief to joy, she discovers the source of her creativity and learns to love again, turning her dreams into reality.

“Italy is the answer.”

Buy the Book: 

Amazon – print
Amazon / Kindle – ebook
Create Space
I-tunes – Apple Store-ebook
Barnes & Noble – ebook

Author's Bio:

Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta-the crazy linguist! In Italian, "matta" means "crazy" or "impassioned". Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master's degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.

Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta ( Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, "Tutti Matti per l'Italiano" and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.

Dreaming Sophia is Melissa's first novel.  It is a fanciful look at art history and Italian language and culture, but it is also the culmination of personal stories and insights resulting from her experiences living in Italy, as well as her involvement and familiarity with the Italian language, painting, and art history.

As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she'd never need it again but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That "thing" was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there.  Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event! Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency-a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways.

Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is married and has three boys and two beagles.

Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Dreaming Sophia. She also designed the Dreaming Sophia website and created the character illustrations that can be found in the book and on the Dreaming Sophia websites.

Connect with the Author:   Website  ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ YouTube ~ Pinterest

Author Melissa Muldoon with actress Sophia Loren

Warm thanks to Laura from Italy Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this tour.  For more spotlights of this book as well as some giveaways, please visit Italy Book Tours' other stops for Dreaming Sophia

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Three Picture Books for Children

In this post I'm featuring three children's books from Loving Healing Press. The first book, My Brother Is Special: A Cerebral Palsy Story, written and illustrated by Murray Stenton, is a brightly colored picture book narrated by Carter, the younger brother of 10-year-old Ethan, who has cerebral palsy.  Published in 2017, this book is dedicated to the late Jewel Kats, an author and disability advocate. My Brother is Special defines and presents cerebral palsy in a manner that children will understand. Told from the perspective of a child, in rhyming couplets, Carter describes Ethan in terms of the differences between them, and the things his brother can't do:

"I know my ABCs, numbers, and how to take a turn. Not Ethan, words, numbers and directions are hard for him to learn."
~ My Brother is Special, Murray Stenton

Fantastic pictures and words show that Carter is messy, whereas Ethan is neat.  Carter is a picky eater, but Ethan likes broccoli, etc.  Carter also mentions some of Ethan's strengths, such as his ability to listen to a song and quickly figure out the beat, and that Ethan is super friendly at school.  Most importantly, Carter says that he loves his brother, and would not "trade him for another".  I enjoyed reading this book, and know that My Brother is Special would be a terrific choice of book for children (5 - 8 years) who have a sibling with cerebral palsy, or a different disability.  The author's hope is that siblings of children with disabilities will know that they are not alone. The book is based on the author's young family; they are pictured in the back of the book, and are captured well in the illustrations.  I learned a few things about cerebral palsy, and am determined to learn more.  At the back of the book there's additional information about cerebral palsy, and some helpful websites are listed.

Published in 2016, Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer: A Tale of Chemotherapy and Caring by author Jewel Kats, illustrated with beautiful 3-D wool paintings by Claudia Marie Lenart, is a picture book about a young girl, Jenny, who is being treated for stomach cancer, who learns that her dog, Dolly, has lung cancer.  Jenny "cannot believe her ears", and becomes angry and upset when she learns that Dolly, too, has cancer.  This book depicts the feelings of a child undergoing chemotherapy who then learns that her dog will also need chemotherapy.  In this book, Jenny feels her feelings, expresses (most) of them, and then decides that she will help Dolly by attending her dog's weekly chemotherapy sessions, and by spending a lot of time with Dolly, who's always been a loyal and devoted dog.

Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer is a sensitive and touching book that will help children who are dealing with cancer in some way.  Both the author and the illustrator lost dogs to cancer, so the book seems true to life and has the right amount of detail for young readers.  In the story, Jenny notices the changes in her dog, such as Dolly's loss of energy and appetite, and her desire for more sleep, and so she's extra loving to her dog.  The illustrations are soft sculptures made from wool and other natural fibers which are soothing to look at.  Children and adults alike will greatly enjoy these gentle, "soft focus" illustrations.  This  picture book is an excellent choice for children (6 - 9 years), and I highly recommend it for young readers and their families.

Prince Preemie A Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrives Early

Prince Preemie: A Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrives Earlyis another picture book for children (ages 4 - 7) by Jewel Kats (published posthumously in 2017), with 3-D wool paintings by Claudia Marie LenartIt is simply adorable.  This sweet picture book tells the story of the King and Queen, who are expecting their first baby, Prince Puppy.  But the pup arrives early, before his crown is built.  Oh, oh--tongues begin to wag!

Prince Preemie features magical illustrations which give this book a wonderful, fairy tale like appearance. The dog characters throughout the book are fun and child-friendly, and add to the unique appeal of this story.  Reading this book together would be a super way for parents to discuss their own feelings and experiences with a preemie child.  

Both of these books by Jewel Kats and Claudia Marie Lenart are cute, but they also deal with serious issues, in a child-appropriate manner.


Each Saturday, Booking Mama hosts Kid Konnection, a fun feature that highlights notable books for children.  Many thanks to Victor from Loving Healing Press for sending me these outstanding books for children. Thank you for reading! I welcome your comments.

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