The Year I Didn't Go To School

The Year I Didn't Go to School by Giselle Potter.
Atheneum / Anne Schwartz Books, 2002.

This spring, my daughters and I will be in a local production of Shakespeare's Richard III. I'm playing Catesby and understudying Queen Margaret and the Duchess, and the girls will be extras in some crowd scenes. I never did use my theatre performance degree to make a living, but it's hard to give up the stage. It's so much fun having kiddos who enjoy performing, too.

We checked out this book a few years ago, as Giselle Potter is a favorite illustrator of mine. She hasn't written many books of her own, though, and I was excited by the description of this one. It's the true story of how her parents took Giselle and her little sister to Italy for a year, to perform with their family troupe, The Mystic Paper Beasts. They packed their steamer trunks and bid farewell to their grandparents.

My own girls love trying to talk me into taking them out of school. This book is so fantastic, but it's even better because it's true. I think they think that maybe, just maybe, Mom and Dad will pull them out of school to travel around, performing. (Haha. Not happening.)

Seven-year-old Giselle kept journals of her time in Italy. She recorded the tastes and smells and sounds. There was the time a police officer stopped their performance, because they didn't have a permit, and that time their truck got stuck between some buildings. People gawked at their truck, but the only ones who came to their aid were the nearby nuns.

She tells about their performances, the dance and mime and masks. In Spoleto, they shared a house with some circus performers!

She writes about the time she found a shiny red purse. They track down the owner, who invites them to a party at her pizza garden.

Oh, and there was that scary time when her little sister fell asleep and missed her entrance. Her parents through a mask on Giselle and shoved her in front of the audience. The mask was upside down, and it was raining.

 Most of the performance bits seem happy and wonderful, though. Indeed, they look like a lot of fun!

In the end, she is sad to leave Italy behind - how could school live up to all this? - but excited to see her grandparents again.

The endpapers are wonderful. They are excerpts from Giselle Potter's journals from Italy, when she was the same age as my youngest daughter! Little Sis is my artist, as my regular readers know. When she saw the endpapers, she became doubly convinced that she shall grow up to make a living as an artist, too.

For more Giselle Potter goodies, you might check out her website, Etsy shop, or this Pinterest board of mine. I'm very excited to see that she has a new book coming in April, and it's another one she both wrote and illustrated.

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  1. This looks like so much fun! What an unusual story and lovely artwork. I used to participate in plays too and it is so hard to give that up. When I was 20 or 22 and very passionate about it, I thought I couldn't ever live without the theatre. Looks like I can though hehe :o)

    1. I think life might be easier for me in some ways if I could stand to give it up. My ego has been very fragile lately. But it's so hard. I love it when I can involve the girls. :)

      Giselle Potter's style is very distinctive. She illustrated a great series of strong girl fairy tale books by Mary Pope Osborne, and a great book called The Boy Who Loved Words. Someday, I need to do a post on her Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

  2. Travel around Italy with the family for a year. I know what I will be dreaming about tonight!


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