Thirteen-year-old Beatrice Archer moves to Rome when her father, a college professor, gets a job there. She does not want to go at first, but she soon falls in love with the beautiful turtle fountain outside her apartment in the Palazzo Mattei, near the Jewish Ghetto. One night she sees someone remove the turtles from the fountain, but the next morning they are back in place, and no one believes her. Only Beatrice notices that the turtles are slightly off from their original position. With the help of her new friend Marco, an Italian boy who speaks English, she investigates the mystery of what happened to the turtles. Her adventures lead her into a world of international art thieves. At the same time, she discovers a legend about the 16th century family who owned the palazzo where she lives, and about how the turtle fountain came to be built.
Tiffany Parks, a writer, editor, blogger, and tour guide who lives in Rome, has written a brilliant first novel., steeped in the history of Rome and its art. Her love of Rome shines through on every page. You can taste the gelato while you're reading the book. And you can learn a little Italian along with Beatrice. Tiffany translates all the Italian phrases into English in her footnotes. I hope that, one day, Midnight in the Piazza will be translated into Italian. And I would love to see more adventures of Beatrice Archer. Midnight in the Piazza was written for children ages 8-12, but people of all ages will enjoy it.
Full disclosure: Tiffany Parks recently took me on a wonderful tour of the sites in Rome where my work-in-progress, a novel about Beatrice Cenci, a young 16th century noblewoman executed for the murder of her abusive father, takes place. The Piazza Mattei and the turtle fountain are very close to the Palazzo Cenci, so Tiffany took me there as well. The turtle fountain truly is amazing! We had corresponded for about two years before then, but I read her novel before we met face-to-face. But none of this has influenced my opinion of her book.
Midnight in the Piazza is available from the Children's Literature Collection in the Hatcher Graduate Library.
This is a photo I took of the Turtle Fountain during my tour with Tiffany Parks in April 2018.