Book Review: Tino and the Pomodori

Tino and the Pomodori coverTino and the Pomodori by Tonya Russo Hamilton builds an engaging children’s story around the growing, harvesting, selling, and eating of home-grown tomatoes. Equally engaging is the introduction of simple words and phrases in Italian.

Tino works eagerly with his grandfather to plant and tend their tomato garden. The life cycle of tomatoes is described in the course of the story, from planting seeds taken from the previous year’s tomatoes, to celebrating the harvest at the end of the season. Hamilton takes a more practical than scientific approach to growing tomatoes, so don’t expect a botany lesson–but sit back and enjoy Tino’s excitement, and the loving guidance of his grandparents, as they grow and eat their delicious pomodori.

The watercolor illustrations by Britta Nicholson are simple and rustic, suited to the story. The book is just out this month (June 2014) from Gemelli Press, and would make a lovely gift for a budding gardener or a young Italophile-in-training.

This is Hamilton’s second book. She wrote Wrestling with the Devil with her father, a memoir of his immigration from Italy and wrestling/coaching career. See my review here. Tino and the Pomodori is also adapted from her father’s early life in Italy.


Book Review: Wrestling with the Devil

Tony Russo was ten when his family put him on a boat in Naples, Italy with a suitcase full of salami and cheese, headed to America. Leaving behind his parents, brother and sister, grandparents, and the village that was his world, he arrived in New York to stay with relatives–strangers to him, mostly–who didn’t have the means to take him in.

Russo’s struggle to survive in this alien world, his longing for his family, and his determination to be reunited with them, all draw the reader into his story. As Russo fought his way through his junior high years, a coach saw his potential as a wrestler, and changed the direction of his life. How did this boy go from the hills near Naples to a Hall of Fame? Read his story!

Russo’s memoir, capably co-written with his daughter, Tonya Russo Hamilton, will engage those who love stories of overcoming adversity, as well as those who value athletics and the character-building influence of good coaching. You might enjoy the publisher’s story about the book signing at the book release party in Russo’s hometown of Newberg, Oregon.

I’ve written in previous blog posts about Italian-Americans and their contributions to American life. This book continues that theme, and I recommend it to you!