Day Two: Florence (“I’m from Europe, where the history comes from”*)
So what do we know about Florence? Not much, as it happens. Turns out, it’s a nice enough town and has a singular advantage over Rome from at least one touristy point of view: No dudes in faux gladiator regalia hounding you for pictures. Like Rome, however, the town contains dozens of street vendors selling tiny tripods. Why this is, we aren’t sure. Tiny tripods. It’s a thing.
Ah, Florence. Slightly less touristy than Rome, the place was nonetheless packed to the gills with the American set. As such, of the two Italian towns we’ve visited so far, both have been more than adequately covered in English language signs, explanations, etc. In one restaurant we managed to find a tiny bit of Japanese as well, but no such courtesy extends beyond the shop’s borders.
Feeling a bit guilty over my failure to mention children’s literature in my last post (we may not be entirely thematic here, but at the very least we should make some kind of an effort in that direction) here are some of the moment throughout the day when it came up.
Now when we think of Italian children’s literature, who would you say is the most famous to come to mind? Before this trip I actually would have had to pause to think that one over. Now the answer seems glaringly obvious. Pinnochio’s name pops up regularly in these towns. Whether the toy stores named after him or local artists creating their own published versions of his books, he is mildly ubiquitous. For example, Florence is known for two things: Its statue of Michelangelo’s David and Florentine paper. Entering one such paper shop, we saw a little Pinnochio display good to go.
That was one such children’s reference. Of course I searched the corners of my mind for examples of children’s books actually set in Florence. None came immediately to mind. If authors have a favorite Italian city it would probably have to be Venice with its canals, its masques, and its propensity for murder. Florence? A whole book based on inescapable gelato would be fun, but I’ve yet to see it.
While in a perfectly nice gift shop outside a Damien Hirst exhibit, I noted the standard collection of mod children’s books that museums prefer to collect. Amongst the recognizable named were Press Here (in Italian) by Herve Tullet, Shadow by Suzy Lee, Popville, and a whole lotta David A. Carter pop-up books (no Sabuda, interestingly enough).
The third children’s reference was . . . . well, apparently the Italians have been lucky enough to finally meet the wonder that is John Grisham’s first children’s book. Of all the American children’s titles out there, this was the one they were advertising. Seemed a bit of a waste. Grisham’s Boone was checked out of my library quite a lot when it first arrived, but since the first wave of adult patrons saying, “Hey, wait. I ordered a children’s book?” the title has become one of my more reliable shelf sitters.
I’ve not had a chance to get my hands on an Italian edition of Harry Potter yet since I already own the first two in this language, but one more certainly couldn’t hurt. I collect them, you see. I doubt that I’m the only one, but they make for good little gifts for me when friends go overseas. Thus far I’ve everything from Czech to Catalan.
Tomorrow we will explore the Bologna Book Fair for the first time and I’ll be able to make heads or tails of what the current state of international children’s publishing resembles at the moment. As for the highlights of the day, they included:
– Creepy fountains (seriously, these will give me nightmares for weeks)
– Odd clocks (I adore odd clocks)
– One of the goriest statues I’ve ever seen of Perseus slaying the Medusa (note the neck)
– Parking jobs that would give your average New Yorker hives just to witness
– Near indecent amounts of gelato (don’t they look like they’re mere moments away from escaping and coming after your dog?)
– And even MORE scooters!
And then we took a quickie half an hour train to Bologna. Tomorrow, the first day of my experiences with the Bologna Book Fair. Woot!
*Eddie Izzard quote
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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