As the daughter of a single parent who worked for a major airline, Liza Manzione had seen more places before the age of 10 than many people see in a lifetime. After a trip abroad when her own son was 18 years old, she was surprised when he couldn't find the country she'd visited on a map. That incident led to research that showed geography classes are all but gone from most American school curriculums.
This got Manzione—who had long wanted to enter the field of literature—thinking: How could she get kids interested in travel at an early age? She drew inspiration from her love of dogs (she owns seven), and The Adventures of Bella & Harry was born. Bella and Harry are two comical, sibling chihuahuas who travel the world with their family, and so far they've been to some pretty fantastic places—including Paris, Venice, Cairo, London, Athens, Istanbul and Barcelona. (The two are set to visit Jerusalem this summer.) While Harry is a fictional pooch, Bella's character is based on Manzione's daughter's real-life pet—who lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.
In each whimsically-illustrated book, Manzione uses the adventurous pups to teach the cuisine, culture, customs, and landmarks of a different country. The duo's most recent adventure takes them to Edinburgh, Scotland, where they visit St. Margaret's Chapel, learn about Parliament, eat Dundee cakes, visit Loch Ness, and more. "Geography is an important part of learning,” Manzione says. “Our children need to be able to think globally, not just specifically to the area in which they live. Knowledge of other cultures and customs is becoming more important as our economy becomes more global.”
The books are intended for elementary school aged children. And kids can keep the fun going between the pups' adventures by visiting their website, which offers interactive activities like packing a virtual travel bag and matching flags and countries.
Bonus: At the end of each book, Manzione offers a list of words and phrases used in that country in order to expose kids to different languages. Plus, five percent of the proceeds from Bella & Harry book sales go to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
—Image courtesy of Kristine Lucco