This book was a quick read at only 288 pages, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I could not get over the melancholy feeling throughout the entire book.
You are introduced to an 8 year old boy named Amerigo and his mother Antonieeta Speranza, who are poor and trying to make it on their own in the year 1946. They do anything to make money... selling rags they find in the streets, mom sews, Amerigo and his friend Tommasino even get away with selling painted rats for awhile because women think they are hamsters being sold for their fur. Through it all, Amerigo never really gives up hope believing while creating a "points" system for all the shoes he sees, if "he makes it to ten times ten, something nice will happen". That's exactly what his mother and some of the other moms like her believe when a woman named named Maddalena Criscuolo comes along, offering to take their children off their hands and send them to families who will take better care of them, feeding them and giving them warm clothes up North in Italy. Most of these moms are so desperate they feel as if they have no choice. Amerigo is placed on this train with a few friends he knows, but they soon alll go their seperate ways to the families who will love and take care of them as if they are their own. Some of them stay where they are and others return home. It is here Amerigo discovers his true calling and his passion and he knows what he wants to do when he gets older.
When he returns home, his mother takes away all gifts and food given to him by his Italian family, and they return to being poor. I did not really find it fair for them to show their kids what their worlds could be like, only to be cruelly ripped away. The train journey seemed pointless. And where Amerigo ends up giving up one of his loves for another, things could have been better had his mother let him pursue his dreams rather than trying to make him learn the trade of repairing shoes.
The book fast forwards to when Amerigo is older and what has happened in his life. This whole book was tragic, even though it had it's own unique version of a happy ending, I still think it could have been better without so much sadness and negativity weaved through the whole story.