Dodsworth in Rome
Text and illustrations by Time Egan
I only became familiar with the children’s character Dodsworth (a humanized and human-sized mouse) after coming across a list of recommended travel fiction books for children in one of my travel magazines. Written and illustrated by Tim Egan, Dodsworth is a delightful character who, along with his pal the duck, loves to travel (there are three more stories in the series as Dodsworth also visits New York, Paris, and London). The books are geared towards early readers, each of the stories being broken down into four chapters. The sentences are short and the vocabulary easy to comprehend, making the Dodsworth books the training wheels of reading (beyond picture books but not quite ready for something more advanced).
The stories are whimsical and delightful, the perfect thing to get children excited over an upcoming trip to the Eternal City. Dodsworth and the duck do the full range of tourist pursuits in Rome including having gelato, the Italian version of ice cream.
Dodsworth and the duck ordered gelatos. Dodsworth got a cone with three scoops: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. The duck got a cone with seven scoops: hazelnut, spumoni, rum raisin, almond, pistachio, coffee, and butterscotch.
And of course one of Rome’s best activities is simply to take in the sites, which is what so many people love about it:
“They rode past giant marble statutes and stone fountains and old bridges and lush gardens. Cathedral bells rang throughout the city. Dodsworth and the duck loved Rome already.”
It’s a great book about friendship as Egan clearly conveys to his readers the bond between Dodsworth and the duck. Even when the duck attempts to add a painting of a duck to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Dodsworth is only mildly annoyed.
Egan also incorporates some great lessons for today’s young readers. After Dodsworth’s suitcase goes missing, the duck finds some money so that he and Dodsworth are able to “eat ravioli near the Forum” and “have a delicious lunch near the Arch of Constantine.” It is only that the duck discloses that the money was not lying on the ground, but rather had come from the Trevi Fountain. Dodsworth immediately informs the duck that they must do the right thing and return it since it wasn’t theirs to take.
It’s clearly apparent from the beginning of the story that Dodsworth is the practical one, always airing on the side of caution, while the duck is sometimes the mischievous one (not always deliberately), constantly getting into fracasses which is how a lot of traveling pairs often are.
I started with Dodsworth in Rome but am anxious to read all about his New York and London adventures next.