Destination Italy, but where are all the picture books, I wondered? My initial searches turned up only a handful of contemporary titles in translation. One of my favourite starting points for research is UK-based site Outside In World*, a brilliant source of information about children’s books in translation from around the world. They list 10 picture books in their Italian selection for children under 5, but of these 7 are not currently available in English. Their listing for 6-8-year-olds is slightly longer at 11 books, but again some titles are not currently available in English, a couple were written by English authors, and only a few books featured were published in the last few years.
When I cast my net a little wider, I found plenty more books to explore; they just happen to be spread across different publishers and different countries, and some are very recent releases. In September this year, Princeton Architectural Press (US) published Good Morning, Neighbor by Davide Calì, illustrated by Maria Dek, while Flying Eye Books (UK) released Marianna Coppo’s picture book A Very Late Story. Both these picture books result from my latest discovery Debbie Bibo agency in Milan, which specialises in picture books and illustrated books, and represents a fabulous selection of Italian authors and illustrators. (Take a look at the gorgeous-looking books on the agency site).
That’s more like it, I thought! Italy is, after all, home to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, one of the most important events in the international children’s publishing calendar. It also has a thriving contemporary children’s literature scene. The country’s IBBY section actively promotes children’s book creators, translators and publishers, and was responsible, in collaboration with IBBY International, for driving the creation of a library on the island of Lampedusa, together with three IBBY silent book collections to cater to the needs of local and immigrant children.
In the end it was tricky to narrow down my selection to three picture books. Here they are, a beautiful and eclectic trio of titles – I’m looking forward to reviewing them and sharing them with you over the next couple of weeks!
On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna, translated from the French by Jill Davis (Thames & Hudson, 2017)
What Does the Crocodile Say? by Eva Montanari (Book Island, 2018)
The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, illustrated by Violeta Lópiz and Valerio Vidali, translated from the Italian by Debbie Bibo (Enchanted Lion Books, 2018)
I can’t leave this page without mentioning the utterly fabulous wordless picture book Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara di Giorgio (Chronicle Books). The title was originally published by Topipittori, a specialist children’s book publisher in Milan. Also, in July last year, I featured a review of Stephen and the Beetle (Groundwood Books) a simple yet profound picture book by Argentine author and poet Jorge Luján, illustrated by the very talented Italian illustrator Chiara Carrer.
*information retrieved online on 23 November 2018.[Image: Panorama di Bologna da San Michele in Bosco by Lorenzoclick made available under a creative commons licence; source: flickr.com]