Pizza in Pienza

What do children and adults love in equal measure? Food! And what food inspires rapture in the hearts of children and adults alike? Pizza! Have your children ever asked where pizza comes from? Who invented the Pizza Mar­gherita? How did anyone think of combining such scrumptious ingredients as mozzarella, tangy tomato sauce, and fresh-baked bread? Thanks to Pizza in Pienza, you and your young charges will have all the answers, in English and Italian, including a recipe for homemade pizza.

Here is the essential history of pizza, told by a charming Italian girl who lives in Pienza and whose favorite food is . . . well, you can guess it—pizza. Life in Pienza is pretty old-fashioned, and our young heroine knows everyone on the street and at the market by name. She comes home from school at midday to eat meals with her family, but in between her snack of choice is pizza, and her favorite place is Giovanni’s, where Giovanni cooks pizza the old-fashioned way—in a hot brick oven heated by a wood fire. Her grandmother, of course, makes it by hand and teaches her how to make it too. Her love of pizza even leads her to the library, where our heroine learns all she can about this ancient and ever-popular food, and so do we.

Susan Fillion, author and illustrator of Miss Etta and Dr. Claribel: Bringing Matisse to America, has shifted her attention from France to Italy in this wonderful book for younger readers. While children will love the vibrant illustrations and simple story of this girl and her great love, adults will be riveted by the history and challenged by the bilingual text—for what good is a history of pizza in English only? Read the Italian out loud—Chiudo gli occhi e respiro il suo caldo profumo e il suo sapore—and your mouth will really start watering.

The history of pizza has been told before but never quite like this. Susan Fillion’s Pizza in Pienza is a picture book, written in English and Italian, with charming illustrations rendered in the warm tones of Tuscany.
The Boston Globe

The history of pizza charmingly unfolds in a bilingual story with handsome paintings that also celebrate the dish’s county of origin…[the narrator’s] whirlwind tour of Italian culture and history, filtered through a veil of mozzarella, is lively and sweet.
Publisher’s Weekly

[Fillion’s] ingenuous voice is matched by equally enthusiastic, folk-style artwork, which looks to be made with oil pastels and is dominated by warm, Tuscan colors…Both tasty and just filling enough, just like a slice of pizza margherita.
—Kirkus Reviews

Where better to celebrate food than in Italy, home of perhaps the most globally popular food of all, pizza?…Fillion includes amusing touches in her handsome paintings…Given how much Americans like pizza, this book should find many interested readers.
The New York Times

Susan Fillion is an artist and museum educator in Baltimore. After majoring in studio art and French at Middlebury College, she spent a year in Italy, learning Italian and studying art history. Pienza, a somewhat off-the-beaten-track town in Tuscany, became a favorite spot, eventually inspiring this bilingual tale of life and pizza in an Italian village.