"Zoe Sophia in New York, The Mystery of the Pink Phoenix Papers" was selected by the New York Times as one of 10 books about NYC-holiday gift suggestions. It appeared Sunday Dec. 10th 07 in the City Section. It was also selected as a "Summer Kids Pick" for 2006 by New York Magazine.
Aspiring globetrotters will enjoy meeting Zoe Sophia, a sophisticated but sweet nine-year-old New Yorker who shares her scrapbook-in-progress during a voyage to Venice in this kicky picture-book travelogue. Though the narrator adores her big-city life, she eagerly anticipates a trip to Italy to visit her beloved great-aunt Dorothy, with her constant companion, Mickey the dachshund, in tow. Girl and dog immediately embrace Dorothy's version of la dolce vita, touring art galleries and landmarks, riding a vaporetto ("like a boat-bus") and gondola, attending the opera and enjoying Italian cuisine. But when Mickey disappears one afternoon, things threaten to go sour. Happily, a tidy Zoe-Mickey reunion ensures more bright spots in the vacation. Making their children's book debuts, Mauner and Smalley (college friends) create a sensory experience of one of the world's great cities via the eyes of a spirited yet never obnoxious heroine. Italian words and phrases (with parenthetical definitions), names of historic sites and descriptions of various customs pepper Zoe's easy-flowing entries. The text sustains a nice balance between Zoe Sophia's appropriate sense of wonder, and a slightly precocious tone. Throughout, Mauner delivers a distinct sense of place with her watercolor-and-India ink compositions. Her scenes - some full-page paintings, some framed to look like scrapbook photos - incorporate humorous and factual details that lend her setting and characters copious personality (a window view of a "gondola repair shop" looks like a backdrop to a Chirico painting; funky boots, striped stockings and trendy glasses). Readers may well shout, "Brava!" and wish for the heroine's swift return.
In this picture book for older children, bright, nine-year-old Manhattanite Zoe Sophia and her dachshund travel to Italy for a week to visit with slightly bohemian Great-aunt Dorothy. Delightfully balancing colorful, cartoon images of bespectacled humans, their grinning pets, and such Venetian backdrops as the opera, with a nearly breathless commentary accurately reflecting the viewpoint of artistic Zoe, the authors have created a hit for Marissa Moss' fans that other youngsters will like as well. Strong female characters, fun with "real" art and artists (as in the page devoted to Chagall), a little bit of worry when the dog goes missing, and the pervading scent of gingersnaps make for a story that is both cheerful and substantial. Zoe Sophia is a charmer, and her trip to Venice unfolds with just enough adventure and information to satisfy her peers.
What critics are saying about Zoe Sophia in New York
Chicago Tribune Chicagoland Final Edition - May 7, 2006 Sunday
Somehow this book escapes preciosity. Claudia Mauner and Elisa Smalley maintain a sense of wry amusement about their small urban detective, Zoe Sophia, noting that she attends the Wildendorf School for the Exceptionally Curious, "a school for thirsty little minds." And who wouldn't want a visiting relative like her Great Aunt Dorothy, author of "No Figgy Pudding at Bleak House."
Reviewed by: Marie Jones
Bookideas.com in association with Amazon.com
Young girls will adore the adventurous and curious spirit of 9-year-old Zoe Sophia, an adorable heroine living in the Big Apple, surrounded by opportunities to learn and explore. Zoe's favorite person is her great aunt Dorothy, a famous writer coming to town to do research for a new book. Aunt Dorothy and Zoe embark on all sorts of wondrous escapades, going to various city locales like the Met, the Central Park Zoo's Penguin House, the NY Public Library, the Empire State Building and Lincoln Center as they search for clues to the whereabouts of the mysterious "Pink Phoenix Papers." This delightful and engaging story not only introduces readers to a variety of interesting tourist attractions in the Big Apple, but also takes us on a real-time adventure as these two enormously charming characters research the mystery of the Pink Phoenix. Zoe and her auntie are the kind of characters girls will want to read about again and again as they explore the world around them with a wide-eyed wonder that is infectious. Claudia Mauner and Elisa Smalley have created a franchise that cries out to be made into a movie or cartoon series. Zoe Sophia is a true find, and her adventures will thrill girls of all ages eager to have adventures of their own. Mauner's colorful and funky fun illustrations add even more flair to a story that combines interesting trivia, educational tid-bits, travelogue and mystery all rolled into one thoroughly enjoyable read. Zoe Sophia may live in an apartment building on the Upper West Side, but her heart and her spirit belong to the wide open world, and thankfully we get to go explore it along with her!
This waggish travelogue, bright in nail polish colors, deftly combines real and imaginary locales. Nine-year old Zoe Sophia tells of her apartment building on 86th Street, taking the city bus to the Wildendorf School for the Exceptionally Curious and ballet class, while waiting for her great aunt, Dorothy Pomander, the writer, to arrive from Venice. Not only is D.P. giving a reading, but she's on the trail of a lost book. She and Zoe Sophia view the Pink Phoenix Scarab at the Met and find phoenix references everywhere, even at the New York Public Library--as well as Lincoln Center, Pearl Paint on Canal Street, then a mysterious Prince Street bookshop called the Phoenix, where Zoe Sophia finds the lost title. The Exotic Travel Diary of Violet Pifer-Snodges 1863-65 even shows the adventurer wearing the pink scarab. A last look from the top of the Empire State Building and D.P. is sure that something magnificent will rise fro the Twin Towers site, just like the phoenix. Stray foreign phrases and rich local lore add to the outing's great charm.
The intrepid star of Zoe Sophia's Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice, and her winsome Dachshund find excitement in their own backyard in Zoe Sophia in New York: The Mystery of the Pink Phoenix Papers by Claudia Mauner and Elisa Smalley, illus. by Mauner. The nine-year-old's aunt heads from Venice to Manhattan, and she and Zoe Sophia embark on a quest of sorts to discover the history of the Pink Phoenix, a scarab on display in the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.