Browsing Italian bookshops for children’s books and, in particular, a book for my 13 month old grandson, was a huge disappointment. In La Feltrinelli (Italy’s biggest bookshop chain with over 100 bookshops across the nation, http://www.lafeltrinelli.it/) the children’s area was overflowing with Peppa Pig books and toys. While Peppa contributes greatly to my salary, (Fullers Bookshop Launceston has just won the 2013 ABC Centre of the Year), I wanted something ‘authentically’ Italian for young Nicholas.
Books for 0-3 year olds were mainly didactic with themes such as sharing, being polite, taking turns etc. Many books were character based chunky board books. Where is Commercial Free Childhood (http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/) when you need it?
Books for 3-6 year olds included many colouring and sticker books and some books in translation – mainly from Australia and UK with names changed to “protect the innocent”. Freya Blackwood’s Ivy loves to give is available as a hardback. Ivy has been renamed Lulu. The few paperbacks were reminiscent of the design style of the 1980’s.
Older readers had many books in translation with a strong emphasis on classic titles such as Treasure Island, The Little Prince, etc. Thankfully there were also the books by Geronimo Stilton (one of the few Italian authors I could find) as well as Rick Riordan and other best selling US and UK authors.
Mandragora (http://mandragora.it/) in Florence and La Toletta Librerie in Venice were free of character based books but had nothing for a very young child.
So what will Nicholas be reading? Not Italian authors.
Favole di Espopo illustrated by Fulvio Testa (Einaudi Ragazzi)
64 page book but only sadly 51 pages of introduction and fables.
Dante’s Journey, An Infernal Adventure (Mandragora) by Virgina Jewiss illustrated by Aline Cantono di Ceva. Jewiss is a lecturer in the humanities at Yale University and director of the Yale Humanities in Rome program. I’ve never seen a picture book version of Inferno.
Guido’s Gondola by Renee Riva illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Waterbrook Press)
Another cautionary tale about consumerism and a young Italian gondolier rat named Guido. Before anyone thinks I’m driven by moralistic aims, the real reason I bought the book – I liked the blue cover and Nicholas’s great grandfather is named Guido.