Let’s Visit Istanbul!: Adventures of Bella & Harry (The Adventures of Bella & Harry)
Written by Lisa Manzione
Illustrated by Kristine Lucco
Chihuahuas have been featured a lot in children’s fiction – for good reason. There is just something about their small size and pointy ears that make us want to know what they are up to and join in their fun. The Adventures of Bella and Harry series is no different. Because it is told through the eyes of two Chihuahua siblings, children of all ages will eagerly gobble up a big dose of geography without even realizing it’s good for them.
Book nine, Let’s Visit Istanbul, does a great job of introducing first through third grade readers to the culture, history, and geography of Istanbul, Turkey. Following Bella and Harry through a day of travel, readers experience everything from the food they eat for breakfast, to the dizzying number of historic buildings they visit, to the sights and the smells of The Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and biggest covered markets in the world.
The story is told mostly in stilted dialogue that is not exactly realistic (but then again, these are talking dogs!) Bella, the older sister, speaks very much like a travel guide. But Harry, the younger brother, mixes things up and adds some humor by suggesting games of tag and sharing his dream of flying on a magic carpet.
It is not the writing that makes this book work, it is the design and the beautiful illustrations by Kristine Lucco that incorporates detail not included in the text, such as the Turkish flag and the clothing worn by the locals. At the end, there are several pages that also provide additional information. “Fun Turkish Words and Phrases” defines important words like ‘please’ and ‘yes’ along with the all important phrases ‘girl dog’ and ‘boy dog’. “Our Adventures in Turkey” shows snapshot pictures of Turkish jewelry, dancing, and other cities within the country.
To accompany the series, author and publisher Lisa Manzione has put together a wonderful website, www.bellaandharry.com. There are reading activities such as “Pack Bag”, “Word Match” and “Flag Match”. There are also lesson plans and teacher guides for the first six books in the series.
With the release of four books in 2013, including Let’s Visit Istanbul, and the planned release of four more titles in 2014, this is a series that will continue to gain momentum. It has already received several awards and is the basis for a musical that is now on tour. Get ready world – here comes Bella and Harry!