Monday, May 26, 2008

Books for Bambini

I've been tagged for another meme by a friend and children's writer. Here's what I have to do:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people and post a comment to
Vijaya's blog once I've posted my three sentences. (My five people are three of my critique partners, Julie, Kip and Cynthia, and children's writers Mary and Robin.)

Okay, so the book in closest proximity to me is actually a board book for toddlers called Alla Ricerca di Christopher Robin (In Search of Christopher Robin), and since it has a mere 26 pages, I can't exactly tell you what's on page 123.

Next up is a 162-pager, E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a novel for middle grades (ages 9-12). Without further ado, here's what I've found on page 123:

He thought a minute and then said, "I haven't been a tightwad all my life, have I?"

"As long as I've known you," Claudia answered.

"Well, you've known me for as long as I've known me," he said smiling.

I'm in the middle of reading this story--an adventure/mystery about a brother and sister who run away from home and stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. The last time I heard this story was when my all-time favorite teacher, Mrs. Smith, read it aloud to our 4th grade class. That was a looong time ago.

While we're on the topic of children's literature, I thought I'd bend the subject around to Italian children's books. Many books for kids here are stories translated from English into Italian. But even stories I was familiar with as a child take on a different bent when they're translated into Italian. Take Puss in Boots, for example.

Here's the cover:

So far, so good. The story goes along as you'd expect it would...the clever cat promises his master fame and fortune in exchange for a pair of boots. Fair enough. The master gives the cat some boots, and the cat finagles a marriage proposal for his master to the king's daughter. Here's the big moment where the master is asking the king for his daughter's hand:
You've got food, drink, the cat (boots included), the master is smiling, the princess is beaming, and even the king looks pleased. Why is the king happy? Not because his daughter is about to get engaged. Nay. Let's have a closer look:

It says that the king was won over by the good manners and apparent wealth of his daughter's suitor. And he also realized that his daughter was, indeed, in love. Awww.
Then the king decides to announce that he will give his blessing for the wedding.
Here we go:
Al termine del banchetto, dopo aver bevuto cinque o sei bicchieri di vino, gli disse: Caro Marchese, sarei felice di avervi per genero. Vi offro in sposa mia figlia!
This happy Hallmark moment translates as: At the end of the banquet, after having drunk five or six glasses of wine, the king said: "Dear Marchese, I would be happy to have you as a son-in-law. I offer you my daughter in marriage!"
Sniff. It brings a tear to the eye, doesn't it? Through wine, all things are possible, I suppose. Especially in Italian kiddy lit.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's the Mammas who rule...

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I'd post this photo I took about two weeks ago at the First Communion of a friend's daughter. Having arrived late (as usual), we spent the whole time at the rear of the church looking at the back of everyone's heads. We'd never been to this particular church before, and I was starting to doubt we were in the right one since I couldn't spot our friends anywhere. After the mass we milled about until we finally found them. Turns out this is why we hadn't spotted them earlier: They had been seated just beyond the front row of pews in these reserved seats. You'll have to click on the photo in order to read the signs, which both say: RISERVATI AI GENITORI which means: Reserved for parents.

Makes sense.

But look at the fine print. In the lower right hand corner of the sign in the front row it says: (mamme)--mothers. And in the lower right hand corner of the second row sign it says: (papa')--fathers.

So they reserved the first row for moms while the dads were relegated to the second row?

I've blogged about the mamma mia phenomenon before, and this is a prime example.

You may think I'm a day late in wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day.


It doesn't matter when I say it--in Italy, every day is La Festa della Mamma.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What Italian Papas are looking for...

Here's a lift-the-flap book that my kids have enjoyed over the years. The title means "Search and Find" and readers have to guess what each family member is looking for, then lift the flap to see if they're correct. Here are some samples of what Italians are searching for...

What's Mamma looking for? A little sanity, maybe? (Perhaps that's just me...)

Oh, yes. Her keys! This I can relate to, unfortunately.
What's the Nonna searching for?
No, it's not someone to cook for (at least not this time). It's....her reading glasses! All the better to spy microscopic smudges of mud on her grandchildren's knees and scrub them into submission.
How about the Papa'? He's looking for something under his jacket on the chair. (I know, it's hard to tell that's a jacket, since a chunk has been peeled off by my 2-year-old). Is he searching for his tie? His cell phone? His Blackberry? The newspaper? Or is he simply on his hands and knees praying for a way to pay for his kids' college education?

The answer to all of these is, of course, no. Especially the college one, as university is practically free here. And I've yet to see a Blackberry in Italy, so that's not it, either. No, ladies and gentlemen, this papa' is searching for...drum roll...

His helmet! (cymbal crash).

Italians love their motorscooters, and they're part of the landscape here. In fact, Italian mammas and papas even bring their kids to school on scooters. The kids don their mini-helmets and cling to their parents from behind like baby koalas. I'm dying to get a picture of this, but I never have my camera with me when I see it.

My dad had a motorcycle for a short time when I was a kid. He wanted to take me for a spin around the block, and my mother said absolutely not. I was crushed. In fact, I think she said absolutely not to the whole motorcycle idea, because my dad sold it after a few months.

My husband has offered to take my girls for a spin on the scooter. I said absolutely not. They're crushed.

I said they could ask me again when they're 30.