26 Must Read Italian Heritage Kids Books

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26 Must Read Kids Books to Celebrate National Italian Heritage Month

Did you know that October is National Italian Heritage Month? I didn’t, I actually recently found out and I couldn’t be happier. I am half Italian and could not be more proud of my Italian heritage. Italian’s immigrated here to America and had it anything but easy. They are hard workers who value family and whether or not you are Italian you may enjoy diving into some of these titles to celebrate the culture while learning history and geography along the way.

26 Must Read Kids Books to Celebrate National Italian Heritage Month
To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on the image of the book. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Italian Heritage Kids Books

Strega Nona

written by Tomie dePaola

When Strega Nona leaves him alone with her magic pasta pot, Big Anthony is determined to show the townspeople how it works in this classic Caldecott Honor book from Tomie dePaola.

Strega Nona—”Grandma Witch”—is the source for potions, cures, magic, and comfort in her Calabrian town. Her magical overfull pasta pot is especially intriguing to hungry Big Anthony. He is supposed to look after her house and tend her garden but one day, when she goes over the mountain to visit Strega Amelia, Big Anthony recites the magic verse over the pasta pot, with disastrous results.

In this retelling of an old tale, author-illustrator Tomie dePaola combines humor in the writing and warmth in the paintings as he builds the story to its hilarious climax.

The Matchbox Diary

written by Paul Fleischman

When a little girl visits her great-grandfather, she asks about the collection of matchboxes harboring objects she can hold in her hand, each one evoking a memory. Together they tell of his journey from Italy to a new country before he could read and write: the olive pit his mother gave him to suck on when there wasn’t enough food; a bottle cap he saw on his way to the boat; a ticket still retaining the thrill of his first baseball game. Newbery Medalist Paul Fleischman and acclaimed illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline tell a breathtaking immigration tale with appeal across generations.

All the Way to America

written by Dan Yaccarino

Dan Yaccarino’s great-grandfather arrived at Ellis Island with a small shovel and his parents’ good advice: “Work hard, but remember to enjoy life, and never forget your family.” With simple text and warm, colorful illustrations, Yaccarino recounts how the little shovel was passed down through four generations of this Italian-American family—along with the good advice.

It’s a story that will have kids asking their parents and grandparents: Where did we come from? How did our family make the journey all the way to America?

Peppe The Lamplighter

written by Elisa Bartone

In the tradition of Lois Lowry and Paul Fleischman, Elisa Bartone’s Caldecott Honor-winning book gives children a glimpse into American history and the immigrant experience.

This is the story of Peppe, who becomes a lamplighter to help support his immigrant family in turn-of-the-century New York City, despite his papa’s disapproval. Peppe’s family is very poor, and though he is just a boy he needs to find work. Being a lamplighter is not the job his father had dreamed of for Peppe, but when Peppe’s job helps save his little sister, he earns the respect of his entire family.

A Picnic in October

written by Eve Bunting

Tony thinks it’s dumb to go all the way to Liberty Island for a birthday picnic. But that’s before he understands what the Statue of Liberty means to Grandma.

America Too

written by Elisa Bartone

Just after World War I, Rosina and her family leave Italy and sail to America, the land of opportunity. But when they settle in New York, American girls make fun of Rosie’s dress, her foreign accent, and her ethnic food. How can she prove to the world that she is an American, too? As the feast of San Gennaro approaches, banners, piles of cheeses, and special pastries fill shop windows. Rosie, chosen to be the queen of the celebration, is torn between excitement and her desire to be a modern girl. So when she appears in the parade, the band suddenly stops, and everyone stares, for Rosie has a surprise for them all.

Elisa Bartone, a teacher in the New York City Public Schools, based American Too on an old family story told to her by a great-uncle. There was a real Rosie who led the feast day parade. Bartone has molded this account into a tale that shines with all the enthusiasm and optimism of those who immigrated to America, the great melting pot.

The Pasta Family goes to Marinara Beach

written by Cory Tilson

When The Pasta Family heads to Marinara Beach for a day of fun in the sun, you know that excitement is right around the corner! But when the family dog (Ziti) wanders off of his leash, the family goes in search of their favorite pet.

Join The Pasta Family on their latest beach adventure, catch a wave at the annual surfing competition, and help find Ziti in a surprise ending!

Spaghetti & Meatballs Growing Up Italian

written by Diana Pishner Walker

A book for all ages, Spaghetti, and Meatballs is a personal memory lesson. Diana Pishner Walker takes the reader on an exciting journey of what it was like to grow up in the hills of north-central West Virginia from roots in southern Italy. Food, family, and holiday customs are enthusiastically described by the author and vividly illustrated by Ashley Teets. The result is a charming book that not only has wide appeal but also serves as an important addition to the understanding of cultural diversity in our society.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

written by Chris Grabenstein

When Kyle learns that the world’s most famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, has designed the town’s new library and is having an invitation-only lock-in on opening night, he’s determined to be there! But the tricky part isn’t getting into the library—it’s getting out. Because when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route!

Fire at the Triangle Factory

written by Holly Littlefield

This is a story of two fictional young girls who become involved in a real-life tragedy. On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company went up in flames, killing 146 workers, some of whom were as young as 14. Minnie, a Jewish girl, and Tessa, an Italian Catholic, are friends and coworkers at the factory. Littlefield relates the historical events through these likable characters with whom youngsters will easily identify. She creates a mood with an earnest writing style. The girls’ different backgrounds are handled in a natural way, and in the end, readers are left with the feeling that these young women may have taught their elders a lesson in friendship.

Recipe for Adventure- Naples!

written by Giada De Laurentiis

When Zia Donatella comes to live with the Bertolizzi family, little do Alfie and his older sister Emilia know what’s in store for them. Zia Donatella is determined to show the kids how a home-cooked meal is better than even the best take-out pizza or burrito. And when Zia’s plan actually transports Alfie and Emilia to famous food cities around the world, they learn first-hand how food can not only take you places but can also bring you back home. Alfie and Emilia find themselves transported to Naples, where they meet Marco, a young Italian boy on a very important mission to shop for the essential ingredients for his family’s entry in the city’s annual pizza fest contest. In their whirlwind search for the perfect items, Alfie and Emilia not only get a taste of Italy but also find themselves refereeing a family feud between Marco’s family and his uncle’s family.

Vacation Under the Volcano

written by Mary Pope Osborne

Who wants to vacation next to a volcano? Jack and Annie are about to find out when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to the days of the Roman Empire. They arrive in Pompeii and soon discover that it is the very day the city will be destroyed. Now Jack and Annie must race against time to find an ancient library before it is buried in ash!

Gabriella’s Song 

written by Candace Fleming

In the streets and canals of Venice, Gabriella can hear nothing but sweet music. The drying laundry goes slap-slap, the church bells go ting-aling-ling, and the lire go jing-a ling-ling. Soon, Gabriella is humming her way through town — and everyone hears her song! Some find it sad, others smile when they hear it — but none can forget the beautiful melody. Before long, a certain struggling composer is inspired by Gabriella’s song — and a beautiful symphony is born.

Roman Diary: The Journal of Iliona, A Young Slave

written by Richard Platt

Iliona never imagined that her sea voyage from Greece to Egypt would lead to Rome, but when she is captured by pirates and auctioned off as a slave, that’s where she lands. Readers are invited to view the wonders of Rome through Iliona’s eyes—the luxury, the excess, and politics.

Detectives in Togas

written by Henry Winterfeld

Yes, Rufus wrote CAIUS IS A DUMBBELL on his tablet at school, but no, he did not break into the schoolroom, did not tie up his teacher, and certainly did not paint his slur about Caius on the Temple of Minerva (even if it is in Rufus’s own handwriting). Rufus is doomed unless his six classmates can find out who is really responsible. Every hour seems to bring a new, confusing clue . . . until the boys finally stumble upon someone who is not what he appears to be.

Mystery of the Roman Ransom

written by Henry Winterfeld

It seems the boys can get nothing right: Their teacher’s fiftieth birthday is long past (they should have done their math homework); the servant they bought as a present for his birthday isn’t just your run-of-the-mill Gaul slave but a courier running for his life; and, to top it all off, the message he’s carrying requests the assassination of a Roman senator—the father of one of the boys.

Postcards from Venice

written by Dee Romito

Skyler is in for a summer of adventure in Venice, Italy, as she pursues a dream opportunity in this hilarious MIX novel that’s a companion to The BFF Bucket List.

Skyler is about to go on the biggest adventure of her life. Her mother has been relocated to Venice, Italy, with the possibility of a long-term move. While there, Skyler takes on an informal internship and will be blogging about the city–a position that could lead to even bigger things if all goes well.

One of her fellow interns, Logan, is cool, cute, and Australian. But the other intern, Zara, seems determined to sabotage Skyler’s chances. And with a big assignment coming up, Skyler is already stumped.

Wishing she had someone to talk to, the first person who comes to mind isn’t even on the same continent. Skyler knows that her BFF, Ella, would have all the answers, especially how to solve the writer’s block. But after a summer bucket list that went awry, they didn’t leave on the best of terms. Thanks to technology, Skyler, and Ella get a long-distance shot at mending things.

But when Skyler’s writing mistakes start to pile up, she isn’t sure if she’s up to the task. With the help of some Italian magic and her oldest friend, can Skyler learn to love her new city and stay connected to what matters most?

Angelina of Italy

written by Maya Angelou

ANGELINA LOVES PIZZA. So much so that when she hears that there is a Leaning Tower of Pisa, and mistakenly thinks it’s made of pizzas, she is so distressed that she must go see it for herself!

Tony’s Bread 

written by Tomie dePaola

Tony dreams that one day he’ll become the most famous baker in northern Italy. His poor daughter Serafina wants to be allowed to marry. Each of their dreams seems far away until Angelo, a rich young nobleman from Milan, appears and devises a way to make everyone’s dreams come true.

Big Anthony: His Story

written by Tomie dePaola

Fans of Tomie dePaola’s kindly Strega Nona will love this charming look at the early days of her good-hearted but clumsy helper Big Anthony. From the day he is born, Big Anthony never pays attention. As a boy, he leaves the gates of the farm open and all the animals escape. As a young man off to make his fortune in the world, he accidentally “fixes” the leaning Tower of Pisa. Will Italy survive the hilarious mishaps of Big Anthony?

Maria Montessori Little People, Big Dreams

written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Maria grew up in Italy at a time when girls didn’t receive an equal education to boys. But Maria’s mother was supportive of her dreams, and Maria went on to study medicine. She later became an early childhood expert—founding schools with her revolutionary educational theories and changing the lives of many children. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the educator’s life.

Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice

written by Claudia Mauner

Adventurous Zoe Sophia and her dog, Mickey, embark on a whirlwind trip to Venice to visit her great aunt Dorothy Pomander. During her stay, Zoe Sophia sees the sites, explores the city, and bonds with her wonderful, quirky aunt. Featuring fun, vibrant watercolor illustrations, this engaging scrapbook captures the landscape of Venice and the importance of loving relationships.

Guido’s Gondola

written by Renne Riva

Guido spends his days shuttling tourists along the waterways of Venice in a small gondola. The kindhearted young rat enjoys the simple pleasures of his world–until his eyes are opened to the possibilities of all that could be accomplished with a larger, faster vessel. As Guido is persuaded to acquire bigger and better boats, life becomes increasingly complicated. Just how far will he go in his search for true satisfaction?

Living in Italy

written by Chloe Perkins

Are you one of the 15 million Americans with Italian heritage? Ever wonder what Italy is really like? Discover what it’s like to be a kid growing up in Italy with this fascinating, nonfiction Level 2 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series all about kids just like you in countries around the world!

Kimchi & Calamari

written by Rose Kent

Joseph Calderaro has a serious problem. His social studies teacher has given him an impossible assignment: an essay about ancestors. Ancestors, as in dead people you’re related to.

Joseph was adopted, but the only sure thing he knows about his birth family is that they shipped his diapered butt on a plane from Korea and he landed in New Jersey. How do you write about a family you’ve never known and at the same time manage all the other hassles that middle school mixes in the pot? What Joseph writes leads to a catastrophe messier than a table of shattered dishes—and self-discovery that will change his life recipe forever.

Papa Piccolo

written by Carol Talley

The lion is the emblem of Venice, but the common cat rules its narrow streets and alleyways. A prince among these feline rulers is Piccolo, and what a fine life he leads! Especially after dark- when the streets are full of possibilities!

Then one night, Piccolo makes a discovery that threatens his carefree life and his independence and starts him on a new and special kind of adventure.

In these pages, you will also meet Caesar- Piccolo’s older and somewhat cynical friend, and Sophia- the shoe shop cat, to whom Piccolo turns for advice when his life takes its unexpected turn. And you will meet two irresistible kittens- one spotted and one striped- who need a home and who help Piccolo discover his own tender heart.

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on the image of the book. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Do you have any recommendations for kids’ books that celebrate Italian Heritage? Let us know in the comments below.

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