A white Italian boy emigrates from Florence to New York during World War II, leaving a beloved stone lion behind in the Piazza della Signoria.
Growing up with art “around every corner, and in every piazza, and in the museum where his father worked,” Renato greets his leonine favorite each morning before school, saying “buona sera” as he and his father walk home each night. Tense signs of war appear, with occupying soldiers speaking “a language Renato didn’t understand.” When Renato’s father reveals that precious sculptures such as Michelangelo’s David are being encased in protective brick enclosures, the boy dashes away, trying to use bricks to shield his lion. In a poignant dream sequence, Renato rides the lion throughout the city. Just before their family’s departure, Renato’s father shows him that the lion has indeed been protected with bricks. Years later, white-haired Renato observes his granddaughter’s connection with a marble lion at the New York Public Library, which engenders a full-circle trip back to Florence. DiLorenzo’s often lovely watercolors are best when capturing nature. The endpapers’ sun-washed Florence and Renato’s dream-ride over the moonlit Ponte Vecchio are lovely. Figural depictions are less successful: Renato and his dad lack visual continuity from spread to spread, and the lion, when viewed from above, is awkwardly foreshortened.
DiLorenzo’s careful research yields a touching tale about art’s ability to deeply affect both adults and children. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)