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Guido's Gondola; Izzy the Lizzy; Rudy the Runt Review by Courtney Larson

By Renee Riva

Guido's Gondola, Izzy the Lizzy, and Rudy the Runt are three lovely books by author Renee Riva.Guido's Gondola and Izzy the Lizzy are adorable picture books, while Rudy the Runt is a sweet chapter book.

Both Guido's Gondola and Izzy the Lizzy are aimed at children who are between four and eight years old. The illustrations in both books are charming watercolor pictures. The stories are delightful, and the message of each book is very positive. In Guido's Gondola, a little mouse named Guido works in the tourism trade in Venice. He takes tourists around on his little gondola, but he loses sight of what he loves as he decides he needs bigger, better, and faster boats. In the end, he realizes that he's lost his joy in his quest for stuff, and he quickly returns to what makes him happy---ferrying tourists in his little gondola. In the book Izzy the Lizzy, a little lizard named Izzy goes exploring and spies a little spider for lunch. However, the spider has a little bee trapped in her web that she plans on eating for her own lunch. The spider begs for mercy from Izzy, and the bee points out the irony that the spider would ask for mercy even while she's not showing mercy herself. The spider and Izzy, based on the bee's wisdom, both grant mercy to their potential lunches, and all three end up being friends.

Rudy the Runt is a 48-page chapter book, and I think it's perfect for children in early elementary, either as a read-aloud or an independent read (depending on skill). Rudy is a small mouse who lives in a dump in Guatemala. However, it's not only mice families who live in the city dump--there are also human families who live in makeshift shacks and sell things they find in the dump so they can survive. There is also a mean tomcat, Jigsaw, who wants to eat Rudy. A young girl, Lupe, who lives with her family at the dump, saves Rudy from an encounter with Jigsaw. To repay Lupe, Rudy begins to hunt for treasures for her family to sell. During his treasure hunts he is forced to outsmart Jigsaw several more times, and his methods of doing so are quite comical and entertaining. He also gets to go to the beach when he becomes a stowaway with a mercy mission group that comes to help the families who live at the dump. Rudy is very endearing, and the message of helping others and missions is beautiful.

My 4 and 5-year-old sons adore the books Izzy the Lizzy and Guido's Gondola. They've both fallen asleep looking at the pictures several times, and they often ask me to read these two books aloud. My 7-year-old read Rudy the Runt in record time--without any reminders from me to finish the book. He enjoyed the story, and he fell in love with Rudy. I think all three of the books are wonderfully done, and I would highly recommend them.

Product review by Courtney Larson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2010