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by Valentina Rizzi

The first stand I come across at the book fair is the Collective Stand “Children’s book publishers” managed by the bookshop La gang del pensiero. It is here, at the entrance of Pavilion 1, where hundreds of children just arrived at the fair crowd into. They listen to readings, participate in workshops, browse, touch and buy books. Here several publishers gather together, including the highly valued Carthusia, Kalandraka, Curci, and you have the opportunity to know the true wonder of the Fair: Minibombo, with its graphic books and Silvia, the author of Gatto Nero, Gatta Bianca, winner of the Nati per Leggere Award 2015. At this stand you also find Settenove, publisher of Io sono così, winner of the Andersen Prize 2015, (category: “best book as a work of art”).
This stand is rich in surprises and novelties. I meet Eugenia of Educazione Facile: a friendly smile, a frank look and seventy-two snapshots on her desk. With an excellent photographer, Filippo, she has invented a creative project: an empty notebook with seventy-two vibrantly coloured photographs inside. Every child is free to choose some sticky snapshots and paste them on the notebook to build up a unique story. The pictures are amazing – mirrors, games of light, animals, people, landscapes – and have been selected by a team of psychologists after several years of trials in primary schools. The opposite of those who sell customized stories, whose slogan makes me shiver: “Become the protagonist of our stories”. Instant printing at the entrance desk, with the name of the readers and their relatives or friends becoming the names of the characters of the story. It is a good idea, original and intriguing, which definitely facilitates the identification of children in the events that are told but it could become dangerous. Children should take advantage of reading to strive to walk in other people’s shoes. What if they got accustomed to read only about themselves instead?
Dealing with these thoughts, I meet a class that is waiting for the printouts. Teachers are yelling, trying to keep the other pupils busy while waiting. So I decide it is time to make an artistic foray. I pull one of my books out of the purse and start telling them The dog that ate his shadow: the pests collapse to the ground, some raise a hand, others lean out to look, others point at the illustrations, some whisper shhh, teachers step aside and I start my show made of smirks, stretching, clowneries and funny voices, in an attempt to drag about twenty children inside a story that is not theirs, following a dog in a funny world where even the stars have their say. Some of them laugh, some ask questions, blowing on the pages to turn them, in the spotlight is that funny dog left alone after having eaten its own shadow. Its name is different from theirs and for once remaining on the margin of the story is useful to find solutions.
Everybody is attentive but one. Zzzzzzzzz Zzzzzzzzz. Amid the turmoil of the Fair, he sleeps peacefully. A sly smile up to the small round eyeglasses among the freckles as red as his curls. A smile as chubby as this five-year-old mite that has fallen asleep amid the chaos of the fair and is noisily snoring! What a show: now the reading is over, the books all alike are ready with the names of the lucky ones and the sleeping beauty is ready to stand up. Other stories and protagonists are ready for them at the Book Stock Village, a lively coloured and very cosy space tailored for them. Hours go by among pavilions, but the surprise is outside where a taxi-driver-philosopher starts to talk to me about pedagogy discoursing on contents and forms of the school reform. He mentions the latest book by Franco Lorenzoni, I bambini pensano grande, and the methodology of Emma Castelnuovo consisting in “thinking of shaping the world” and when I get off the cab I think that the real Fair is outside.