Take your children on a trip around the world without leaving home. ‘The Adventures of Bella and Harry’ series of books by Lisa Manzione invites your children to armchair travel while learning about geography.
When last we spoke, the adventurous Chihuahua duo, Bella and Harry were in Paris. They’ve done a lot of travelling since then. I was able to catch up with author Lisa Manzione between flights.
Lisa, how did you get the idea to do these books?
“About 5 years ago I realized most U.S. children are geographically challenged. I came home from a trip overseas and was shocked to learn that my son, now in college, was unable to identify France on a map. Sadly, geography has fallen to the wayside in our school systems. My hope is that the series will stimulate their minds and create a desire to learn more about the world in which we live.”
Why did you choose dogs as the travelers?
“Bella is actually inspired by my daughter’s Chihuahua. I thought the idea of two cute pups traveling the world would be a good way to introduce youngsters to geography. I wanted to combine my passion for traveling and love for animals.”
Why do you think children would want to read your books?
“I believe the humorous banter between the puppy siblings along with colorful illustrations creates an exciting way to introduce children to travel and different cities around the world. In addition to the hard copies, ‘The Adventures of Bella and Harry’ has been added to the Reading Rainbow’s iPad app library. The app offers interactive animations, activities and audio storytelling by Grammy-Award winner LeVar Burton, host of the popular Reading Rainbow television show.”
Do you travel to these places to do research?
“Every single one of them. All of the cities, monuments and activities in the books are all places I have visited myself personally over the years.”
Do you think it’s important that children travel?
“If our children are going to thrive in a global economy, we need to teach them that there are places in the world beyond their backyards worth knowing about. ‘The Adventures of Bella & Harry’ is an informative, interactive and exciting way to introduce children the joys of travel and ultimately create more knowledgeable citizens of the world.”
What are your plans for future books? Will Bella and Harry be going around the world?
“Currently there are 6 published books in the series, Paris, Venice, London, Cairo, Athens and Barcelona. By the end of this year, there will also be Edinburgh, Istanbul, Rome, and Jerusalem. I have many more adventures planned for Bella and Harry, I just recently came back from Russia and have plans of visiting Africa within the next year. Bella and Harry really want to go on safari!”
As a children’s book author, what would you say is important vs being a writer of adult books?
“As a children’s book author, I believe it’s important to establish a groundwork for future reading efforts. If a child has fond memories of books when they were young, I believe it will lead to continued reading as an adult.”
When Bella and Harry stay home, what do they do?
“Bella loves to nap in her dog bed. I am sure she is dreaming of her next adventure with her family! Harry is a fictional character, but if he were a real pup, I am sure he would be dreaming about his next adventure as well.”
What’s your biggest challenge as an author?
“Time and Distribution. I want to be able to share my series everywhere but have found most larger retailers only want to deal with large publishers. It has taken persistence, but I am happy to say, we now have major distribution throughout the U.S., Canada and France. Currently, I am working with a major distributor in England and hope to solidify the relationship by the end of this year.”
What is your favorite part of writing?
“My favorite part of writing this series is the fact that children are learning about the world. Hopefully, by exposing children to different customs and cultures at an early age, they will be more tolerant of other cultures and customs that are different from their own when they become adults.”
If you could go along with Bella and Harry, where would you choose to go next?
“Since Bella and Harry can’t travel alone, I am one lucky owner! A safari is not too far in the distant future for the family.”