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The Golden Gondola

The Golden Gondola should appeal to young and old and will be a charming story to read aloud and share!   It has been beautifully illustrated by UK artist, Will Stevens and will be a book you will want to read over and over and treasure. 

The Golden Gondola features rich scenes from Venice and locations around the world, and includes delightful images of unusual instruments, such as the Shamisen and Pipa.  Each page is brimming in colour that should appeal to children.  The easy to read verses include a number of “word builders” to give children a head start to advance their reading skills.

The clever rhyming will charm children and will be entertaining for both groups and one-on-one sharing.

Author, Sandra Arthur explained, “I wanted to develop a book that both young children could enjoy at bedtime story reading, or challenge older children to read aloud something that was witty and fun.  At the same time, I hope the readers will be inspired to listen to the music discovered and seek out more information on the locations visited in the story.  I know only too well, how busy parent are these days and my music link page on this website aims to provide additional resources for parents and educators on these subjects.”

This book is available as a paperback and ebook (pdf) from Lulu and Amazon.


If you have read The Golden Gondola you will know that a variety of different musical instruments are discovered during the magical adventure tour.  Here you will find music clips where you will be able to see and hear the music featured in this book. 

Sales of this book support The Children's Home, Nepal (see We Support section).


The talented Bristolian artist, Will Stevens, has beautifully illustrated the Golden Gondola.  Will has exhibited throughout England and is well known to large number of students in the Bristol area.   This is his first illustrated book.  Will commented, “I’ve enjoyed the challenge to illustrate the Golden Gondola.  In particular, the research on the various musical instruments and the opportunity to use my iPad to finalise the original water colour and crayon images.”

An extract from the book is shared below:

“Rialto Bridge is the place you should start.”

“Yes the bridge with the shops! Marco how smart!

With money in hand, Maria rushed to depart.

Then quickly returned from the flower grower’s mart.

Marco took her hand, towards his gondola, all gold.

“Step this way, throw your rose, let the magic unfold!”

Extract from The Golden Gondola.  All Rights Reserved. Sandra S C Arthur.  Illustration Will Stevens.

Five reasons to read aloud this new picture book:

1.     The witty story, via smart rhyme, will make you and your kids smile.

2.     Reading aloud in different voices offers lots of fun and builds a love for books.

3.     The colourful illustrations will fuel imagination about travel, food and music.

4.     Discover and learn (and listen online) about unusual musical instruments.

5.     A chance to discuss one’s dreams and wishes and consider children who are less fortunate in life.

The story of the sad orphan and the magic lion and gondola is one that children ages 3 to 9 love hearing again and again. The rhythm and rhyme of Sandra Arthur's story, The Golden Gondola, makes it an excellent read aloud. Young child love to call out the name "Maria" each time it occurs in the story and this adds up to making it fun . The flamboyant illustrations by Will Stevens, with their bold colors greatly appeal.  Finally, the musical education (and video links that can be found online) and the opportunity to learn more about unusual musical instruments adds to the adventure.

Reach New Reading Heights!

For Younger children:

Study the beautiful pictures in this story and discuss what is featured.   Describing the story in your own words will prove more helpful than reading the words to younger and lower level readers.  Also linking to the music links will build upon creativity and discussion.

Early readers:

Child love oral rhyming activities.  Read this story aloud.  Invite the child (children) to join in.

Advanced/older children

Remember to include a writing activity.  For example, search for words that rhyme.  Create charts and see how many words they can find in the story.  Example: Cat/Rat; Run/Fun; Foam/Home.  Illustrate the best matching pairs!

Jouez, Lisez, Imaginez!

NOW AVAILABLE - The Golden Gondola IN FRENCH - La Gondole Dorée.

Une histoire charmante et pleine d’esprit accompagnée d’images merveilleuses que vous voudrez admirer, chérir et partager.  Un plaisir à lire à voix haute et partager avec les jeunes et les moins jeunes.  Un festin pour tous les sens!

French rhymes differ from English language rhymes in many ways. The subtle complexities of the language make creating poetry in French both a challenge and a delight.  Taking the words of The Golden Gondola, translating the spirit and storyline and delivering a poem in French is therefore a tall order.  But the talented teacher/writer and poet, Anne-Caroline Dupont Salter, has done just this!  She has collaborated with Sandra to offer a FRENCH version of The Golden Gondola.  Now following the same story line, children can now also read La Gondole Dorée aloud in French.

Can't decide between English or French Version?

Don't worry - we have now produced a special edition featuring both the English and French text!  Enjoy the adventure of Maria and her magic golden gondola and lion in this jammed packed edition.  Both authors of the French and English story have billingual kids and definitely know the benefit of achieving proficiency in two or more languages.

Bilingualism has two effects on early acquisition of literacy:   (1) a general understanding of reading and its basis in a print system and (2) the potential for transfer of reading principles across languages.

In tests, all bilinguals showed an advantage in these areas over monolinguals, but the more similar the two languages the larger the advantage.

So if you children understand French and English, they will definitely enjoy these fun storybooks.  Order from LULU.com


A new classroom activity kit has been added to support The Golden Gondola - our new witty and charming story with colourful illustrations by Will Stevens. This read aloud book offers lots of fun, word builders and the chance to learn more about music and geography. Sales of this book support The Children's Home, Nepal. 

Go to our Classroom Activity Kit page to review and download.  Please share results of your own storytelling and reading workshops.  Below is a souvenir from a special Golden Gondola Workshop we supported at a Montessori school, France.


With literacy issues being a hot topic at schools today, it is no surprise that the Head and Teachers in Year 1-2 at Kingston’s Rideau Public School, in Ontario Canada, Canada, jumped at the chance to welcome a children’s author, who aims to “make reading fun”.

Sandra Arthur, a British-born, France-based writer of junior fiction and early learning books collaborated with Canadian teacher/poet, Anne C Dupont Salter on Arthur’s latest book, The Golden Gondola.  Anne, who works part-time at the Rideau, had just completed creating the French text for this fun read aloud story “La Gondole Doree”, when Sandra advised she would be travelling to Kingston for a private visit.

Having staged a series of successful storytelling workshops in France, she offered to visit the Rideau Public School to share details of her work and The Golden Gondola.

This story, of a sad orphan and a magic lion in a gondola, is one that children ages 4 to 9 love hearing again and again. The rhythm and rhyme of Arthur's story, The Golden Gondola, makes it wonderful to read aloud.   The chance to learn about unusual music and places in a participatory session punctuated by music, videos and activities all adds up to adventure.

Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education, an organization that promotes improvement in schools. “Participating in [extra-curricular] activities is linked to a greater degree of engagement in school,” she says. “And engagement is linked all over the place to academic success.”  Despite current teacher protests on extra-curricular, Rideau School teachers knew a good opportunity when they learnt about her visit and warmly welcomed Sandra to their school in late October 2012.

In the main school hall, decked out in Halloween decorations, Sandra greeted 110 + children and their respective teachers whilst showing a short video of “Venice clips” and playing her commissioned music: Venice Escape.  This mixed group of French Immersion and English instruction students were ready to be entertained.

Sharing the design of the front cover Sandra asked the students if they could identify the image on the book.  One confident young lad shouted out “It’s a canoe!”.  A teacher quickly clarified to the author, “This is Canada, after all!” to waves of laughter.

The image in question was naturally not a canoe but a Venetian Gondola.

Growling, lion roars and movement at the beginning of the storytelling session, assured that impatient children were capable to sit politely throughout the workshop.

Sandra peppered her presentation with lots of additional facts and figures about Venice, Venetian explorers, as well as a brief introduction to unusual musical instruments.

Colourful illustrations that had been produced by British artist, Will Stevens, and featured in The Golden Gondola, were projected two metres high onto the stage screen.  Children were treated to a whirlwind visit to China, Japan, Iran as well as Venice during the 30 minute storytelling session.

After the book reading, Rideau school children were granted their own “magic rose” to discover more about music. Sandra was impressed to learn that children at this school loved a huge range of music genres: Rock, Pop, Classical, Jazz, Country, Hip-hop, Rap, Opera and as one little one was keen to include “Disco!”.  These were children aged between 5-7 years old, so hats off to their parents for exposing them to such a wide range of music at such an early age.

It was apparent that many children in this group were already well versed in music and many could already play a variety of musical instruments such as recorder, piano, and violin.

Sandra shared more interesting videos featured in her story such as those featuring the instruments:  Pipa, Shamisen and Kamanchen.  The children were challenged to listen to the music of the pipa and determine what “story” the composer was trying to convey.  Time for more movement as by now the children had been sitting calmly for 50 minutes.  To the music of Vivaldi’s Four Season’s Winter, the group, including teachers, happily played their invisible violins.  Sandra kept a sharp eye on all would-be musicians for those keeping their bowing best in time with the music.  Thirty children were rewarded with bookmarks for their efforts.

Finally, to close the successful workshop, Sandra asked the children to share where they would like to travel if they had a magic rose and golden gondola to take them on such a trip.   Responses included: Canada(!), France, China, Paris, New York, Japan, Montreal etc.  This compared with children in France asking to travel to Italy, UK, China, Australia, Ireland, Corsica, Isle Maurice, Canada, USA, - who says young children don’t know anything about geography?

Finally, the workshop closed with a special Question and Answer session.  The author’s twin sons had also attended the workshop and were happy to answer questions about life in French Schools.  The school children were shocked to learn about the long days endured.  Commencing school at 8.30 am until 4.30 pm with 30-45 minutes of homework.  However, it came as a surprise to understand that there is no school on Wednesday.  This day is left for children and parents to choose the sport, art or music class they may wish to attend.  There was strong praise for the French school cooked lunch by the young visitors.  No packed lunches allowed.  For children whose mother’s did not work, they typically had to go home for lunch.   All other children sat down to 3 or 4 course lunch each day.  Example: Tomato, Feta Cheese and green Salad, Roast turkey with vegetables, Yoghurt, Fresh Fruit, Bread and water.

The Golden Gondola is rapidly becoming a hit with fans all over the world.

Don't take our word for it - here's what people are saying:-

The Golden Gondola - It has such beautiful illustrations and  a lovely rhythmic flow.  My two children loved it.
Nadine, South Africa.

Loved the read aloud Golden Gondola story – Radio Ron is next on the reading list for our daughter! Rob, France.

Advice from teachers:

Want to know what type of books to read to your children? 
Retired teachers share this sound advice, " We like stories with rhyming words. Training the children's ear to hear rhyming words is powerful teaching strategy to develop auditory/listening and language skills by building a foundation for reading. The recognition of rhyming words is a great prediction that young children are developing skill to emerge as strong readers!"

Sound advice.  Our artistic read aloud book should be one for to you share with your children.  More than a fun story the book also includes interesting information about unusual musical instruments  as well as links to listen to music.