"Where The Princess Bride was lightheartedly brutal, this story is gently whimsical, well-complemented by Paul Giovanopoulos's zany drawings."
-- San Francisco Chronicle
The Silent Gondoliers is the lesser-known (but equally wonderful) book written by S. Morgenstern, William Goldman's favorite pseudonym. It was released in hardcover in 1983, and a nicely-done trade paperback version came out from Del Rey in 2001. Paul Giovanopoulos pen-and-ink illustrations do indeed serve the story well.
This book is ideal for all ages; parents might enjoy reading this one aloud to their little ones, because younger readers will likely have trouble with some of the vocabulary, particularly the scattered Italian phrases. Teenagers, if they haven't been properly introduced to the joys of Goldman's writing in the book or movie version of The Princess Bride, might find this one too old-fashioned, but the book is so short (110 pages) that you might be able to convince them to try it anyway. Adults like myself who enjoy a good fable well-told will likely find this one delightful.
The Silent Gondoliers tells the tale of an aspiring gondolier named Luigi. He is a talented boatman, but he's a horrible singer. In fact, he's so awful that people get stomach cramps and migraines just listening to him. And in his Venice, that's a problem, because the gondoliers have their reputation as the best singers in the world to uphold. A tone-deaf gondolier just won't do, no matter how skilled he is with his oar.
Ultimately, we learn why the Venetian gondoliers no longer sing. You know it's because of Luigi, of course. Reading his misadventures as he pursues his seemingly-impossible dream to become the best gondolier in Venice and meets zany characters such as John the Bastard, Porky XII, the Great Sorrento, and The Pickle is a real joy.