The king and queen of a city that reflects a fairy-tale Edwardian version of Venice suddenly realize that their beloved daughter, Lucia, will be queen one day, and she will need a husband.
So the king writes (in longhand, on a writing desk) to the wisest man in the kingdom, Old Angelo, who writes back (on a typewriter) that they should choose a suitor who can bring Lucia the item of the title. But Lucia, who does not get out much, finds Salvatore, Angelo’s grandson, and asks him to show her the city. While the king and queen exhaust themselves examining what the suitors bring—mermaids and airplanes; works of art and weapons of mass destruction (“How can anyone believe weapons are the most wonderful thing in the world?” asks the queen)—Lucia and Salvatore visit shops and markets, theaters and book stalls, stroll in piazzas and loggias. King and queen despair, and so does Salvatore, who has fallen in love. Old Angelo brings all the protagonists together, and Salvatore pronounces what the most wonderful thing is: Lucia, of course. Barrett’s watercolor illustrations are full of exquisite color and detail, referencing not only Venetian architectural monuments, but Martha Graham dance and the Tin Man among other cultural milestones.
Lightly wraps the love of family as the center of life in a silken gown of word and image, with a playful undercurrent of both whimsy and irony. (Picture book. 5-10)