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Category Archives: Italian

She’s learning and I didn’t even notice

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Elisa Kleven’s The Lion and the Little Red Bird is about a bird who wonders why a lion’s tail is different colors on different days (red, orange, blue, etc.). She asks him, but he doesn’t understand bird. They form a friendship despite the language barrier. A rainstorm ruins the bird’s nest and causes the lion to bring her inside his cave, where the reason for his ever-changing tail is revealed. When the bird finally finds out that he’s been painting with his tail she sings a beautiful song that the lion loves. It’s about inter-special friendship, the power of art and music to transcend cultural differences, and colors. One hardly notices the colors with everything else that is going on and I love that. My daughter also loves lions, so she’s happy. The rare books that trick one into learning are great — not because my daughter needs to be tricked, but because I enjoy reading books which don’t make me think “now I am reading about counting, now I am reading about coloring, she is learning about coloring now, she is learning about counting now” but instead have some sort of narrative.

There is a great Pimpa book (Pimpa va a casa di Nino) which, although not as subtle, manages to count from one to nine with a convincing (though slightly bizarre) narrative. The main trick is, I think, that completely different things are counted. So instead of say, just choosing a totally random example, one monkeys, two monkeys, three monkeys, etc. it is about a dog who gets in a canoe to visit her penguin friend Nino. [I used to have some stuff here about rainbows, but it proved too controversial and I revealed my lack of scientific rainbow knowledge.] I bet you are more interested in what happens at the end of this book than in the ten little monkeys jumping on the bed one, right? Armando gets a treat from the North Pole.

No! No! No! No!

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We’re working on having our daughter learn Italian. There are times when it is easier to integrate it into her life and times when it is harder. There are moments when she resists it and moments when she loves it. She has consistently really enjoyed Noemi dice no!  (story by Anna Lavatelli and illustrations by Paolo Turini). Even when she doesn’t want to speak Italian or hear it, she’ll happily listen to me read this book to her over and over again. It’s about a little girl whose first word is “No!” She starts saying “no” all the time and that is all she will say. Everyone is worried and tries to get her to say something else. Finally, they discover that she wasn’t saying “no” to everything, but trying to say her name, Noemi. I think my daughter may love it because her name also begins with “no” and she called herself “Nono” for a while (as did people at her daycare and her longest standing, closest friend). Now she alternates between her name and “Nono.” We hadn’t thought of how often one would be saying “no” to a child when we named her (or that “Nono” would be a potential, however temporary, nickname). She used to repeat things she shouldn’t do (burn herself, jump off high things, the basics), by saying “No no, Nono” (which sounded a lot like “no no no no”). It’s completely not confusing. Uh. The book plays with this confusion. It also has colorful pictures on one side and the big text on the other, along with solitary objects that she points to and we talk about in Italian, which is great. I kind of hope she loves it because of the narrative and not just because of the pictures (as arresting as they are), because … well. I’ll let you admire a couple of depictions of Signor Groppo yourself. What was your first word? Your child’s? How many times a day do you think you say “no”?