Paolo, Emperor of Rome

Paolo, a little dog with big dreams, longs to experience the freedom just beyond his front door in this charming picture book from the prolific Mac Barnett (Just Because; The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse) and Claire Keane (Once Upon a Cloud, Little Big Girl).

Trapped in the salon where he lives, Paolo could "poke his nose outside and, sniffing, smell all the smells of Rome--salty, sour, meaty, flowery. That was all Paolo got of liberty: a whiff." One day, when the door is left ajar, Paolo escapes: "And was the city all he imagined? It was more." He experiences the historic grandeur of the Colosseum, fights off cats in ancient ruins, dines on the finest restaurant garbage and leads a pack of stray dogs on adventures. When Paolo witnesses nuns falling into the Trevi Fountain, he leaps to the rescue and is honored for his valor with special rooms in the papal apartments. But Paolo leaves even these beautiful furnishings behind, "for walls are walls, even when papered in gold." The city--and his own sense of independence--call to him. "And Paolo's proud spirit was boundless. He could not be contained."

Barnett's text impressively balances the humor of a little dog ruling over such a grand city with the sweet innocence of Paolo as he experiences the joy found in table scraps and papal apartments. Former Disney Animation artist Claire Keane's thick, black lines are softened by lovely pastels and earth tones, the illustrative style mirroring Paolo's own delightful boldness. Both Keane's art and Barnett's plucky hero give the big city of Rome an exciting and inviting feel, making it a delightful adventure for readers and travelers of all ages. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

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