Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Au Clair de la Nuit - Motus Editions

"Placida notte, e verecondo raggio della cadente luna"... this is the start of one of the few poems I remember from my old school days.

I won't talk about the reasons for the strong appeal the moon has always had on men, though it is a matter of fact: since ever men got inspired by it so as to make of it the object of adoration and superstition even.

This year several books were published about the moon or men landing on it in 1969.

Amid the many books with this subject, let me draw your attention on a book I found at the Salon de Montreuil, published by Motus Publishing House:

Au Clair de la Nuit, texts by Janine Teisson, illustrations by Joanna Concejo, collection "Pommes, Pirates, Papillons", Editions Motus, 2009.

Au Clair de la Nuit is a little masterpiece of quality and care, holding it in your hands is really pleasing both for the rough and thick consistency of the paper, for its sober composition, and for the beautiful combination of text and illustrations that lead us to the discovery of new, poetical images.

This book is indeed a collection of short poems, all devoted to the moon, with little sentences full of unusual, ironic, amusing and at times melancholic symbolisms, but always inventive that confronts us with little questions such as:

"Pourquoi la lune n'a pas d'oreilles?" - Why doesn't the moon have ears? or...

"Pourquoi les lapins dansent-ils sous la lune?" - Why do rabbits dance beneath the moon? or...

"Tu veux confier ton secret à qui ne le répétera jamais?" - Do you want to tell your secret to someone who'll never reveal it? or...

"On dit que la lune est pleine. Mais pleine de quoi?" - They say the moon is full. But full of what?

The black and white images by Joanna Concejo increase from time to time the feeling of melancholy, they strengthen the poetical message from the texts, letting all the unsaid shine, letting us perceive the distance that separates us from the moon but also that closeness that makes us wonder when we look up.

A book I suggest to everyone, to adults as well.

For more information about Motus:

Copyright images and texts Ed. Motus © 2009

Monday, 7 December 2009

L'Heure Bleue - Naïve Editions

Today I shall like to talk about a publishing collaboration that I would call very successful and profitable. This makes me ponder on how important are, in the publishing world as well, human contact, a clever vision of their profession and affinity besides the merely professional and business aspects.

L'Heure Bleue, texts by Massimo Scotti, illustrations by Antonio Marinoni, translation into French by Sophie Royère, Editions Naïve (October 31st  2009) 

During the Salon de Montreuil (the Paris Children's Literature Show, occurred Novenber 25th to 30th), I had a big surprise: in the booth of Naïve Publishing House I found a French copy of the picture book L'Ora Blu, published by the Italian Topipittori only a few weeks before.

It is not the first time that Naïve publishes, at a very short distance, one of the books from Topipittori: in fact, in 2007, they published Velluto. Storia di un ladro see here below.

Velours : Le nez d'un voleur, texts by Silvana D'Angelo, illustrations by Antonio Marinoni, translation into French by Sophie Royère, Editions Naïve (September 1st 2007).

Talking to Ms Patrice, who's in charge for Naïve Jeunesse, I was able to confute how much it can be fundamental (especially when talking about small publishing houses) the attention to the product of course, but also and mostly, I would say, the open-mindedness and the attention to those foreign publishing companies that produce books similar to their own needs, with full and open collaboration. I must confess that this conversation was, for me, source of great satisfaction as it confirmed some of my own firm beliefs as the value of sharing, but also the idea that in publishing there should be no limits for what regards collaboration amid actors of the same genre. I make a step forward by admitting that I believe openness to blending extremely important, in whatsoever way, as it inevitably brings to enrichment. To understand what I mean, just think of Bruno Munari.

Starting from the 60s-70s, the publishing industry dedicated to children's literature has always been extremely advanced and open to experience, led by that common sense that pushes authors, illustrators and publishers in a direction with many facets but one, only, main purpose: the creation of little masterpieces to be delivered to children. Far from me the wish to create the illusion of a perfect little world, I cannot affirm that all publishing houses are working at high levels: very poor books, with an awfully low quality both from the graphic-illustration point of view and textual one, are published almost every day. After all, business rules in this sector as well. Though, thanks good, there are still courageous people who publish even knowing that they are leading a difficult, tortuous battle, often a non productive one but still they remain firm in their purposes despite all this.

This is one of the reasons why I have decided to open, starting today, a new section of this blog that will be devoted to those publishing houses that, in my very personal opinion, are operating an an excellent way: I shall keep you posted about new publications, initiatives and other from the publishers I have selected. I shall tell the names little by little... A bit of souspence isn't bad after all!

I am glad I started this section talking, at once, of two publishing houses: Naïve, of whom you shall hear soon further news, and Topipittori that I deeply esteem both for the beautiful minds that lead it, Giovanna Zoboli and Paolo Canton, and for the care and the almost crazy attention they have for the books they produce.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Wa Zo Kong by Beno Wa Zak (or Benoît Jacques)

During the last Salon du Livre de Montreuil (the Paris Children's Literature Show, occurred Novenber 25th to 30th) I had the chance to find several very interesting, newly published, books. The Salon is always cause of artistic dazzling discoveries, it was in fact during the 2008 Salon that I was literally enchanted by the genius of an eclectic French author: Mr Benoît Jacques.

When I saw La Nuit du Visiteur, I was speechless: it's a brilliant book, not just for the absolutely original reinterpretation of  'Little Red Riding Hood', or for the essential and effective use of color and graphics that contribute to increase the story's pathos, but for the whole of this masterpiece that I consider one of the best children's books of the last few years.

It is not by chance if, during the 2008 Salon, the book won the prestigious Prix Baobab, and it is not by chance if the Publishing House Orecchio Acerbo immediately seized the opportunity and published the book in Italian last May, with the title Aprite quella Porta! (Open that door!). I take this chance to personally thank the people at Orecchio Acerbo as they gave Italian readers the chance not to loose such a wonderful book.

Here is the link to the video regarding the prize-giving to B. Jacques: a very touching moment, where the author (and publisher) tells about his dream and the hard work he's getting ahead with commitment and effort.

Today I am happy to announce the publication, during the 2009 Salon, of a new Benoît Jacques book titled Wa Zo Kong: the tragic and unique story of a "Wa Zo ki vo lpah... y Kou"... I shall not tell you more than this: it's the story of a Wa Zo (oiseau, bird) and of his inability to fly. Illustrations are in black and white, essentials though warm and engaging. It's a very amusing book, with that biting and disenchanted irony in the typical Jacques style that leads readers to smile and, at the same time, to think over human routes. In the simplicity of this text and images, the animal world seems to be more of an excuse that the real subject of the book: much more subtle lines on human behaviors, on modern society and it's mechanisms, on the so said rules that dominate our acting, are hiding behind what is not said. It seems that Mr. Jacques wanted to suggest us a new perspective leading us to reflect, to open up our minds to free thinking.

With the hope that the dream Mr Jacques had when he was a child, and that he translated into his publishing adventure, may keep going for a long time, to our advantage as well, as I don't want stop believing that everybody is free to tell what they think and to represent it regardless of lobbies of any kind may them be in the publishing business, cultural or political. Thank you Mr Jacques!

Wa Zo Kong by Benoît Jacques, Benoît Jacques Books, November 2009.

Images Copyright: Benoît Jacques. Images reproduced with the permission of the Benoît Jacques Publishing House.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Anne Frank Images and Words

Today I'm opening a new section that I have been brooding at length before deciding to expose it to the world, as if it were a fragile son that somehow needed protection: I thought I'd call this section "Was and Roundabouts" as I intend to treat of those books telling about war, about the absurdity that pushes men to commit unjustified and inexcusable crimes, and of all that gravitates around those themes.

I am inaugurating this section with a character I very much loved when I was a teen. As a teenager I wasn't a big reader, but I remember reading her diary several times. With Anne and Kitty I lived the emotions of a kid that had to grow up to soon because of the external world, as I have been as well even if for completely different reasons, I recognized myself in that vital fervor, in that élan that permeates all of Anne Frank's diary. In those pages I identified all the difficulties and the fears common to teenagers, made even harsher by confinement and by the fear of being discovered: the fervent empathy I felt made me feel the same dread, the same hatred towards adults who never understood how fragile feelings can be, the same beats, and I desperately writhed my hands.

I have been in Amsterdam several times but, I must confess, I never had the courage to visit the house in which Anne lived her months of self-imposed imprisonment: that distant and dusty place had lived in me for too long and I was afraid that all the emotions I had felt would suddenly vanish if I visited it, as if reality could break into the imaginary I had lulled and endured for such a long time without hesitations.

Too many things have been said and written about Anne Frank, or maybe it's never enough. Last September a new, wonderful, book was published with the title: "Anne Frank, her life in words and pictures", by Menno Metselaar and Ruud Van der Rol, translated into English by Arnold J. Pomerans for Flash Point Publishing,  made in collaboration with The Anne Frank House. As the subtitle partly explains, in this book the authors are treating of the Frank's lives up to their capture, through images and words. This book is for young readers, aged 9 to 12.

Anne Frank is, always, an incredibly strong symbolic character because she embodies the power of life, with the contrasts and the innocence typical of adolescence, because she is a victim of that same brutality that keeps victimizing all those kids who can't allow themselves the luxury to live their childhood, because those terrible  facts, that aren't just history, keep happening every day and we look at them without feeling concerned.

I believe that making her known, with new books as well, is a beautiful message for those kids that have many advantages, and to those parents who tend to forget it. I'm saying this without demagogies, with no hidden purposes, because I feel that getting back in contact with the many truths of the world could be nothing but good for everyone.

In the dairy it's Anne speaking, with no mediations, without limitations of any kind: the girl, almost adolescent, who opens her heart to an imaginary friend, Kitty, and to all those girls and boys of the same age willing to read her letters and to find those same condition and feelings. "Anne Frank, her life in words and pictures" will never substitute that unique experience, of course, but it allows lazier readers to still take advantage of an important experience.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Children's Theatre Festival Segni d'Infanzia

This week, in Mantua (Italy), there is an interesting Theatre Festival entirely devoted to children called Segni d'infanzia, last day the upcoming Sunday November 15th.

There will be artists coming from many countries in Europe, such as Norway, France and Germany, all ready to entertain children and their chaperons, with incredible stories.

Amid foreign guests I would like to signal the following ones:

Bramborry Theater De Spiegel e Théâtre de la Guimbarde
Extra Art Stefan Zimmermann Productions
Direzione Norvegia! in collaborazione con NSEC (Norwegian Seafood Export Council)
Red Shoes Teater Fot
Imaginarium Benoît Sicat
Architetture Plastiche Martin McNulty
Gusta il tempo! Laurent Cabrol et Elsa De Witte
La cicogna e il cucù Cie Arts & Couleurs
Favole della buonanotte Theater De Spiegel e Théâtre de la Guimbarde
Bestiario Alpino Théâtre de la Toupine
Lupo e Luigi Théâtre du Risorius
Bynocchio de Mergerac Bouffou Théâtre
Baby Ready Made Karstein Solli Productions
Le Grand Théâtre Mécanique Ateliers Denino

Amid Italian Companies please note:

A nord della primavera Teatro all'improvviso, Teater I e Smålands Musik Och Teater
Giunone Blues Teatro all'improvviso
Caccia all'ombra Federica Ferrari
Knup Luigi Rignanese

For those who are interested in taking a look at the complete programme, please click here.

Image copyright © 2009 Segni D'Infanzia.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Mika and Picture Books - Part One

Today I would like to start up an artistic-musical break to talk about the immaginative world of an artist dear to many teenagers, and not only.

The reason why I chose this artist is my absolute admiration for his incredible communicative ability and for the originality of his work: where 'mass' perpetually tends to copy, from time to time, someone distinguishes himself for the global vision of his artistic expression. This axiom is not true for everybody but, for Mika (Michael Holbrook Penniman) it certainly is.

Entering his website is an absolutely vitalising experience, I felt a bit like Charly discovering, step by step, the Chocolate Factory. No Mika Wonka in his top hat to greet me at the entrance, but still I somehow felt at home: instead of the Golden Ticket there are Mika's Magic Numbers, instead of the chocolate-waterfall there is a panoramic wheel facing a world made of bright colors, well, how could anyone resist it?

His fans are welcomed by a virtual embrace, pampered with a quantity of little attentions, drawn into and, most of all, acquainted to what happens, every minute, at times by Mika himself. It is not my task to establish if he is just a subtle comunicator or is genuinely enthusiastic about his work, though in approaching this versatile artist I had the feeling that, besides mere economic reasons that, of course, are not unwelcome, he has an unyeilding will to convey his artistic concept.

Except for rare cases, I believe there are really few musicians (and authors) so deeply rooted in their own artistic vision and able to give it a transversal expressive form, who are also able to embrace other artistic branches. As an example just think of Mika's personal contributions to the artistic creations that go with his music.

In The Boy Who Knew Too Much, together with his sister Jasmina (aka as DaWack) whom he worked with for the design on the first album, Mika was shrewd and modest enough to have other asrtists as well to support him: the awesome Sophie Blackall, talented Australian illustrator about whom I shall soon write more, and Richard Hogg, eclectic British designer whom he had already worked with in the past.

It is undeniable that Mika has a deep bound with childhood immaginary. As regards this I was struck by a declaration he made on his blog, last July 15th:

"There's something dark and magic about a good picture book. The way those characters never leave you and attach themselves to a particular time of your life. The only thing I can compare it to is smells."

It's as if those characters had crystallized in his mind and heart, forming a costellation of archetypes that seem to be a constant source of inspiration, of nourishing almost. The comparison to smells then I believe is even more significant in regards to the evocative power that, also nowadays, certain characters appartaining to his childhood might still have in his immagination.

That "dark and magic" he refers to, that surfaces so well in his last cd, and of which childhood and adolescence are so fully spangled, is a constant and powerful theme in his songs: as if his melancholic inclination was playing hide-and-seek, disguised behind sequins and gaudy colours, protected from the superficiality of those who are listening simply to fill their ears with faint notes.

I really hope that the great media success, with its grinding mechanisms, and the unavoidable maturity won't end up by eating away this great emotional and instinctive richness, that they won't transform that "childlike" smiling look into cynical disenchantment.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Mary Poppins and Marina

In the last few days I inherited a number of books that appartained to my cousin. Despite the fact that two years have gone since she has left us, we were all greatly moved by the feeling we were somehow violating that universe that was so personal. From that search unattended treasures came to surface, treasures from childhood forgotten in the dark of a humid basement.

I took those books in my hands with the feeling that all the tenderness of the world was in them: they could see all her joy as a kid, all the hesitations of her first readings, all the smiles and the tears. I came only later, when she was almost a teenager, and I remember how much I was envying her for all those books filled with warm and soft illustrations, with all the warmth and softness typical of the images from the 50s and 60s, I wouldn't be able to describe the feeling they gave me differently.

While I was trying to find some room for those little treasures that still smell mould and distant afternoons at the beach, here I see it, hidden in an old Mary Poppins' edition: a little letter, a treasure in the treasure! Discovery of discoveries that made me see old faded images. I can't avoid copying it here, because it implies all that childish freshness and that simplicity of feelings and that greatness I had already mentioned in other posts.

"Dear Marina,

we received the letter you sent lately, and the postcard as well.

I have heard that you are feeling better and, breathe well the air from the sea, as when you will be back in Parma you will breathe foggy air.

For Saint Lucy's day we remembered you and we thought to give you a Mary Poppins book for a present.

Pray that I am sure you will laugh much when you'll read it, like you did when you were with us.

How are you now?

And when will you be back?

Kisses and hugs your



S.Lazzaro, December 12th 1965"

Well, today I want to remember her like this...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Il Paese Sbagliato

Supposing that others might be moved, as I was, by this book is certainly wrong. Though, as I firmly believe in what Fossati* would call "belonging", my premise is that who reads me will be likely to share those thoughts with me.

Reading some of the paragraphs in this wonderful book deeply moved me.

"Il Paese Sbagliato" by Mario Lodi, Publisher Einaudi Editore, Series ET Saggi, 1970 and 1995. The book has been translated in French, English and many other languages, but is currently available in French.

Recognizing all the freshness of those child's thoughts, pure, free of hidden motives is a blow similar to the ones you'd get with lashing ocean's waves: overwhelming and energizing at the same time.

For those who don't know the book, it's a text where Lodi collects a series of episodes and information about what he himself called one of the few "happy islands" in the Italian scholastic outline of those years: the classroom where he taught from 1964 to 1969 in Vho (close to Cremona, Italy). Lodi was, as many other elementary teachers, a member of MCE (Educational Cooperation Movement): the teachers who adhered to the movement, decided to take a distance from traditional pedagogical methods, and to replace them with a new way of teaching that placed kids at the centre of the system. Kids are therefore no longer seen as subjects/objects whom teachers had to impress with notions and rules, on the contrary they were treated as a human beings and free thinkers. As Lodi explains very well, the aim of such a didactic method (inspired by the French Freinet) is the attempt to release men from a supine attitude, making of them autonomous thinkers and therefore independent from dominant logics.

I shall mention one passage of the book for all which, I believe, is still strictly persuasive and modern:

"During World War I, Agostino (ndr. a seventy years old man who was invited to school to tell the story of his life) says that Germans were our enemies, while during World War II at the beginning they were our allied. I don't understand this mess: well who is Italy's enemy?

The conversation brings to the conclusion that Italy's enemy, like any other country's, doesn't exist. On the contrary there are different interests (like oil wells for instance) that are pushing governments to start conquer wars and therefore to "invent" each time the enemy.

[....] (ndr. during the discussion with kids) We slowly get to the atomic days.
- Is it true - asks Angelo, - that a submarine passed below the ice at the North Pole and made half a tour of the world without using any petrol nor coal, but using another thing [energy] that I know they call atomic but I don't know how it works?
- Nuclear energy is the one that freely exhales on the sun. Man was able to reproduce and lock it up, and then to use it.
- Well, nice thing, - exclaims Angelo, - and he made the bomb with it!
Angelo's statement provokes a chain reaction on what man can do with his brain. And on what he can provoke.
- We are in favour of peace, - says Fabio interpreting everybody else's thoughts.
- Otherwise...- adds Angelo, but he stops.
- Otherwise? - I ask him, inviting him to express his thoughts.
- Otherwise that stripe [meaning the line that represents Agostino's lifetime that overlooks those of Italy and of humanity**] ends there and there is no future.
- You are the ones who will write the future, - I tell him.
- Indeed, - says Angelo,- we will make a line that begins there where Agostino's one ends. - Well, you're getting rid of grandpa Agostino, - I tell him, - but I don't believe he is quite ready to close up his book yet.
- Oh all right, - smiles Angelo, - it means that we will make some way together then." page 197

Now I' asking myself which kind of adults those kids have become, if they have kept that honest look on the world, or if they were ensnared by modern life's uselessness, if they too gave in in front of the many temptations and the constant brain washing we are exposed every day? Who knows!

What remains is this important evidence, always topical as I was saying, a moving token that, I hope will never get lost amid the many books out of prints.

*ndr. Ivano Fossati is the most important living musician and song author in Italy, amid the many songs he wrote he translated from French "Le Déserteur" by Boris Vian.

**ndr. upon the teacher's suggestion, kids had made a graphic representation of Agostino's life, they traced on an horizontal line the happenings he had told them, those that had had consequences at national level, when not worldwide, together with some more personal events.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

It's a Snap!

I confess: I'm a fundamentalist of photography and I don't regret it! This is why I cannot but tell you about this brand new book from Canada:

"It's a Snap!: George Eastman's First Photograph" by Monica Kulling, illustrations by Bill Slavin, Pub. Tundra Books, Toronto, August 2009.

In this book, greatly illustrated by B. Slavin with watercolour pictures of various formats and perspectives, the author tells the story of how Eastman was able to invent, over 100 years ago, the prototype of modern photographic machines.

There are at least two factors of extreme interest in this book:

  • the first being the human experience of the character whom we meet at the age of fourteen: a fatherless child, obliged to leave school and find a job to support his family, Eastman decides to try a hobby to relax in his free time and chooses Photography. Like in "The Day-Glo Brothers" book, the main character in this book is very young as well, in Eastman's story too - like with the Switzer brothers - the ability to apply fantasy to a practical activity ended up giving unexpected results, with important implications in modern life;

  • the second factor is the historical and, indirectly, sociological one. Having kids approach photography from the pre-Digital era, and pre-Reflex as well, is not a mere scientific exercise but it allows to compose a much wider fresco including past and present customs, allowing highlights on their differences and likeliness. Who never posed for a group picture? But in the past, posing required quite some time. Nowadays we take pictures in every occasion, to remember precious moments, how about 100 years ago? When did they use to take pictures?
Monica Kulling's simple and solid writing, with the right pinch of irony and practical information, is the perfect way to get to understand the complex world of photography, and Eastman's intriguing life's course. Illustrations, at times whole page ones, others little fragments framing particular moments, some in colour, some in sepia tones (recalling the atmpsphere of old pictures), are completing the text with harmonious beauty allowing a parallel vision of the story told.

If you're interested in the book:

Friday, 4 September 2009

"Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudì"

A new book about the enigmatic architect Antoni Gaudì has just been published in America:

"Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudì", by Rachel Rodriguez, illustrations by Julie Paschkis, Henry Holt and Co., September 2009.

By the same authors who had already created, in 2006, another interesting book on the life of Georgia O' Keefe*, comes a second work devoted to another important character of the artistic world such as Gaudì whom, like O'Keefe, introduced his own very personal application of nature's beauty into art.

This picture book, for kids of age 4 to 8, tells about Gaudì's idea to represent the beauty of nature through architecture. Anyone who has seen "La Pedrera" or "Casa Batlò", just to mention two of the many works by Gaudì, cannot but remain speechless when approaching the visionary power of this incredible artist. Introducing kids to this multifaceted architect is, with no doubt, a wonderful idea that deserves being communicated.

For the few things I was able to see, the book seems a very interesting work, also the authors seem to be invariably attracted by original, partly bashful characters, whom conducted very intense lives, partly veiled of mysterious discretion.

To be honest I am not crazy for the illustrations: I believe there are some that are very interesting, while others are - to my very personal taste of course - too saturated, too mellow. Of course I realise that it's no easy task to translate Gaudì's work into illustration. It is anyway an appreciable effort, at times absolutely fitting.

* "Through Georgia's Eyes" by Rachel Rodriguez, illustrations by Julie Paschkis, Henry Holt and Co., Febbruary 2006.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Wire News - Philosophy for Children

Today, in the States, a book that seems particularly promising is being released, it's titled: "Big Ideas for Little Kids, Teaching Philosophy Through Children's Literature", by Thomas E. Wartenberg, Pub. Rowman & Littlefield Education, 164 pages.

Thomas E. Wartenberg is a Philosophy teacher at Mount Holyoke University where, for the last decade or so, he has been leading classes for elementary teachers, to help them learn new methods to teach children Philosophy.

The book is the result of this long-lasting experience and is divided into four parts:

1 - "Teaching Philosophy in Elementary Schools", where the basics for teaching are described, considering the very special audience to which Philosophy lessons will be delivered;

2 - "Preparing to Teaching", where practical suggestions on how to structure lessons and how to conduct the philosophical discussion with kids are given;

3 - "The Stories", where some characters or picture books are taken as an example to afford specific subjects such as Metaphysics, Aesthetics, Social and Political Philosophy, Epistemology, Language Philosophy, and so on;

4 - "Implications", where we find suggestions about activities to do after philosphical discussion has taken place and conclusions.
Amid the Picture Books the author uses as a practical examples, we do find some that are definitely old, such as:

"The Important Book" by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrations by Leonard Weisgard, Pub. Harper Collins, 1949


"The Wonderful Wizard od Oz" by L. Frank Baum, originarily published by the George M. Hill Company in 1900


"The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, of 1964 published all over the world

together with brand new ones, such as:

"Knuffle Bunny, a Cautionary Tale" by Mo Willems, Hyperion Books for Children, 2004


"Emily's Art" by Peter Catalanotto, Richard Jackson Books, 2001

If you wish to listen to an interesting interview with the author, please go to the following link:

If you want to buy the book:^DB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdata=1607093340

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Hello everybody,

I do apologise if I kept silent for such a long time but, as many people, I have been on holydays for a few days.

I'll post soon with interstineg news.

Illustration by Andrea Marazzi
copyright © 2006

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Poesie per Aria - Chiara Carminati

"Poesie per aria"
by Chiara Carminati, illustrations by Clementina Mingozzi, Publisher Topipittori, 2009

Anyone who has met Chiara Carminati in person will understand, without hesitations, the reasons of my deep esteem, personal first of all and artistic of course, for this wonderful writer.

Chiara is like her poems: playful, joyful, light as breeze and deep, intense, of a density that strikes and refreshes at the same time. Her ability to play with words is, I believe, characteristic to those people who have in their inner a score that plays constantly: a music deeply connected to their soul.

Once again, in this beautiful book, Chiara gifts us with her great talent, with the generosity of which she is able: without savings. It is so rare to find people capable of such a 'elan and it would be a real shame to renounce to this book.

I hope that Chiara, and her publishers, won't blame me if I post a small shortcut of one of her poems here below: I believe it's important that you read her words, instead of mine, to fully get what I mean and - even if the bit won't be translated into English - I am sure you will enjoy the sound!


L'aria e' fiato, soffio e brezza
sulle guance ti accarezza.
L'aria gonfia, svela, spinge
con le nuvole dipinge
fischia e schiocca tra le fionde
si riposa sulle onde.

... (omissis)

The illustrations by Clementina Mingozzi are following poems with discretion, with sober linearity, completing them without being invasive.

For those who would like to get to know Chiara better, here is her site:

Friday, 10 July 2009

Paul B. Janeczko & Chris Raschka

Pronouncing those two surnames together might be harder than reading a tongue-twister, but you won't regret you did, I promise! Today I decided to feature a collection of awesome Poetry books, all published by Candlewick Press, the first one appeared in 2001 and is titled...

"A Poke in the I, a Collection of Concrete Poems"

Apollinaire would have been charmed by this lovely book, where poetry and illustrations are chasing and confronting each other to finally fuse into a unique lively result. In this book there are not just poetry and intensity but there are as well playfulness, imagination, and lots of fun: the best way to assure kids with a nice approach to poetry.

The second book was published in 2005...

"A Kick in the Head, an Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms"

A real guide to the different poetic forms, with a glossary at the end and technical explanations. A wonderful book, simple though accurate in which, amongst others, we can read poems from William Blake, Edward Lear, Bobbi Katz, John Hollander and William Shakespeare! Raschka's wonderful illustrations are not simply a description of the poems but, thanks to a very clever system, they provide a real visual guide that facilitates the identification of the different poetic forms proposed in the book.

The last, only for the moment I hope, published this year is titled...

"A Foot in the Mouth, Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout"

As Janeczko says in his Introducion to the book: "Poetry is sound. Oh, sure, it's other things, too, but sound needs to be near the top of the list. To hear the sound of a poem, really hear it, you need to read it out loud. Or have someone read it to you.". In the index, the author divides poems in various categories depending if they are for One, two or three voices, tongue-twisters, short, bilingual or poems for a group. Among all the poems you will find Jabberwocky by Lewis Carrol, full of nonsensical words but rich in pressing and vibrant sounds. We find Shakespeare once again, an abstract form Macbeth, when the witches are preparing a disgusting magic potion. Hilarious! Raschka's essential images, once again, are not deceiving readers: he plays with the page filling it, getting into poems making the reading not simply pleasant but playful and fun. Another masterpiece for your bookshelves.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Wire News - Terrible Yellow Eyes

Illustration by Bill Carman

For all of Maurice Sendak's fans and, in specific, for lovers of Where the Wild Things Are, here is an interesting link where dozens of international artists have given their own reinterpretation of the characters, giving them new light through their imagination.

Illustration by Dan Matutina

Illustration by Cory Godbey

The Official website:

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Wire News - Sabine Sicaud (1913-1928)

For all those people who do not believe in children's soul depth, to their ability to understand, or to their intensity and sensitivity, I suggest a particoularly interestung reading:
Because litterature isn't high or low according to who reads or writes it...

Monday, 29 June 2009

Wire News - The Day-Glo Brothers

The Day-Glo Brothers: the true story of Bob and Joe Switzer's bright ideas and Brand-New colors

by Chris Barton
illustrations by Tony Persiani
Published by Charlesbridge Publishing Inc, 2009

Lately, in the States, an interesting picture book has been released: it's a book telling the story of the Switzer brothers, the inventors of the so said Day-Glo colours.

It's a non fiction book telling of how two brothers, apparently very different, thanks to curiosity, intelligence and spirit of cooperation, were able to invent something that would have revolutionized the world of colours, but not only. To understand the innovative content of this invention, just think of the many, incredible uses that are made daily of Day-Glo colours: look around on your streets and you will be amazed!

Let me add here some nice images that I hope will help better understand how much these refined New Yorker style drawings are the perfect match to a story telling how, at times, discoveries are not just casual but also the result of genius, good will and research. Colours, of course, are Day-Glo!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Marcos Ana

I just started this blog and I am already writing about literature that is not properly for kids. I choose though, despite everything, to tell you about this poet that anyone should read, including kids. It's not just because it's my personal pleasure to tell you about him, it's also because I believe it's a civil duty in the noblest meaning of this term.

Marcos Ana (Fernando Macarro Castillo) is a hero of times that now seem so far away. With his almost ninety years of age and his uncertain pace, Marcos Ana has the unique ability to disarm and move with simple, open words. For who doesn't know his story I shall resume it by saying that he has been a political prisoner, under Franco's dictatorship, for twenty-three years: when he went to prison he was only eighteen, he was set free when he was more than forty. He suffered tortures of any kind, despite this his untamed, coriaceous soul helped him survive all the horror he experienced. Hearing him talking is the most moving experience, because with firm quietness he doesn't allow us to forget that freedom is the most important thing we have.

In indolent times such as ours, it's easy to see crooked smiles of pity when hearing messages like this, but amongst this majority I hope there will always be someone ready to take this message, someone who will make it his own message, someone ready to defend it from oblivion.

I copy here two short poems, that are part of the newly published autobiography: "Ditemi com'è un albero - Memorie della prigione e della vita", published by Crocetti (, a little masterpiece that I highly recommend. I do apologise if I keep the Italian version, but translating poetry requires skills I don't possess, I am sure though you will be able to find these in English as well maybe on his official website. A little additional information: Pedro Almodovar will soon be making a movie based on Ana's life.

(sogno di libertà)

Se un giorno tornerò alla vita
la mia casa non avrà chiavi:

sempre aperta, come il mare,
il sole e l'aria.

Che entrino la notte e il giorno,
la pioggia azzurra, la sera,
il pane rosso dell'aurora;
la luna, mia dolce amante.

Che l'amicizia non trattenga
il passo sulla soglia,
né la rondine il volo,
né l'amore le labbra. Nessuno.

La mia casa e il mio cuore
mai chiusi: che passino
gli uccelli, gli amici,
e il sole e l'aria.


Ditemi com'è un albero.
Ditemi il canto del fiume
quando si copre di uccelli.

Parlatemi del mare. Parlatemi
del vasto odore della campagna.
Delle stelle. Dell'aria.

Recitatemi un orizzonte
senza serratura né chiavi
come la capanna di un povero.

Ditemi com'è il bacio
di una donna. Datemi il nome
dell'amore: non lo ricordo.

Profumano ancora le notti
d'innamorati con tremiti
di passione sotto la luna?

O resta solo questa fossa,
la luce di una serratura
e la canzone delle mie lapidi?

Ventidue anni... Già dimentico
la dimensione delle cose,
il loro colore, il loro profuno... Scrivo

alla cieca: "il mare, "la campagna"...
Dico "bosco" e ho perduto
la geometria dell'albero.
Parlo per parlare di argomenti
che gli anni mi hanno cancellato.
(Non posso continuare: sento
i passi del funzionario).

Friday, 19 June 2009

About me

Hello everybody and welcome on my blog,

my name is Cristiana, on Myspace I'll soon be 100 years old, in real life I'm a little younger.

In ancient times, when Once unpon a long ago was present, I took my university degree in foreign languages - and literatures - with a work on the influence on French Symbolism on Oscar Wilde's Salomè, then I took another path...

I started to actively follow children's literature not a very long while ago: as usual I seem to need quite some meditation before finding the right way.

The passion for this part of literature I owe to my grandma, the only one I ever had... here she is

My grandmother was a simple person but she had a fervent imagination: she used to spend nights reading novels of any kind, she would have spent her life travelling, she was proud when she could eat much sugar and butter because - said she - having these goods during the war meant being rich, she loved listening to the radio and singing while she was doing housekeeping, she used to invent incredible games for her grandsons but, most of all, she was a wonderful storyteller. I remember the magic of slightly sleepy afternoons, right after lunch, while laying in bed she used to tell me amazing stories: her arms smelled so good and from that safe port I used to sail away light as breeze, ready for adventures beyond compare, always different. You might be wandering why I'm telling you about her... Because talking about her is as well talking about me, and because it's only thanks to her if I still keep sailing light as a cloud.

Getting back to the much less magic me... I have been writing for a children's literature magazine for a while, I have made several creative laboratories for kids aged 4 to 8, I should soon start Children's Literature classes at the local Popular University, and now here I am with this new exciting adventure.

I was lucky enough to travel quite a bit, this gave me the opportunity to find books that, here in Italy, are not so easy to find and I will be very happy to share them with you... Same thing said for Italian, French, Spanish and any other country's books that haven't been translated yet. During my research I was able to find real treasures, almost forgotten, that I would like to highlight in this blog.

I believe this is all I had to say, maybe...

And now, I make a bow and disappear in the mist!