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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

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

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth 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.


  1. What lovely pictures! I visited Florence once, years ago, so it’s nice to have a little virtual visit. Have a gelato for me!

  2. Not a children’s book, but a wonderful one on Florence and tourists is E.M. Forester’s A ROOM WITH A VIEW. Terrific movie too.

  3. Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern; illus. by Pau Estrada (Charlesbridge, 2009). And Nancy Willard has one called The Flying Bed (I haven’t read it, but my Florence envy might drive me to it!). Enjoy!

  4. Wait! How could I have forgotten The Hinky Pink by Megan McDonald! Brian Floca’s illustrations of Florence (not to mention the frontispiece map) are gorgeous.

  5. Lucky you! Can’t wait to hear about the book fair. Sounds like your trip is off to a great start.

  6. My favorite children’s book set in Italy is The Diary of Melanie Martin by Carol Weston. Have you read it?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Melanie Martin no, though we definitely have her books in my library. And HInky Pink!!! How the heck did I forget HInky Pink? I will have to reread my copy immediately when I get home in repentance. Well played, Anamaria. That was three you mentioned in one shot.

  7. “City of Flowers” in Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza series takes place in Giglia, an alternate version of Florence. Those books always make me long to visit Italy…

  8. I love Florence! Beautiful city. Great art. Did you get to Uffizi Gallery?

  9. Betsy! While you were / are overseas, NPR quoted YOU talking about e-books for preschoolers.
    (you famous New York City librarian, you.) They not only quoted your words, but had an audio clip from you. I heard it while I was parking my car at my library and I refused to get out of the car until the NPR piece was done. -w0

  10. oh, when you’re in Bologna, make sure to visit the children’s book store right by the main piazza. It’s called Giannino Stoppani: Libreria per Ragazzi and it’s AWESOME!!! all kinds of original artwork and tons of books. Bologna Book Fair also has a featured book shop just down the way from there, too. Basically, if you’re near the Piazza Maggiore, you’ll see signs for it. But totally worth it. Plus, there are all kinds of fun narrow streets there with yummy shops.

  11. It’s nice to have the Hinky-Pink thought of — pre-trip, mid-trip, or post-trip. Thank you for the shout out, Anamaria. Divertiti in Italia, Bezzi!