Reading Reports

Nicola Grossi
Bear, hole!

Report by Fiammetta Giorgi

A degree in classical literature; after years of experience as an editor, she has been doing translation from German and English, specializing in children’s fiction (translating, among others, Christine Nöstlinger and Ann...

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Richard R. Nybakken is a writer, translator, and historian. He graduated with an AB in history from Dartmouth College, and holds an MA and C.Phil. in modern European history (specializing in...

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The story
Can you tell a story to pre-schoolers using just a few words, very simple shapes and colours? It would seem a daunting challenge, but in this case the author has succeeded perfectly, creating a cheerful running joke involving child and adult in a game that puts you in a good mood and stimulates the imagination. “Bear is lost and can no longer find his lair. He starts walking and suddenly … FA-THUD! He falls into a hole. But it is the fox’s den!” Fox joins Bear to search for his lair and soon Toad, Ant and Elephant join them in their adventurous journey towards a surprise ending. What is it that amuses and surprises in this delightful tale? Bear is a big brown circle, Ant is a small black circle, their journey through the desert is a yellow stripe and their zigzagging through the forest a squiggly green line. Yet it doesn’t take a second for adult and child to grasp the story and get into the game, following the lines and trying to avoid the holes … or falling into them with a laugh.

The characters
Bear, Fox, Toad, Ant and Elephant walking through the woods, rivers and deserts in search of Bear’s lair.

The language
Few words, splashes of colour, rhythm and onomatopoeia: a simplicity and immediacy reminiscent of the tradition of Bruno Munari and Leo Lionni. The apparent simplicity actually hides considerable confidence in the use of one’s own means of expression because, to quote Munari himself, “Complicating is easy, it’s simplifying that’s hard.” Solidity of tradition then, but innovation as well because the story does not end when the book ends: those who want can go on finding more on the book’s mini-site.

Why it merits translation
To read Bear, hole! is to immediately associate it with two great masterpieces of international fame: Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and Michael Rosen. The first for the simple yet ingenious idea of using splashes of colour to evoke characters and stories, and the second for making onomatopoeia a humorous leitmotif, for sense of rhythm but especially for the ability to engage adults and children in a playful game. It is not surprising to discover in his biography that Nicola Grossi combines passion for children’s literature, music and theatre for children: it is clear he knows perfectly how to actively involve his readers. The book’s features make it readily usable in other languages.

If you think you’ll have difficulty seeing a bear in a brown circle or a desert in a yellow stripe, be assured that the small reader sharing the book with you will not have any trouble. The strength of Bear, hole! lies in its simplicity.
Ilaria Cairoli, Panorama

(…) along with rhythms and sounds, shapes and colours, the author offers each child the freedom to imagine, investigate and interpret what is in and beyond the story.
The motivation of the jury for the Nati per Leggere prize in 2014

Nati per Leggere 2014, Nascere con i Libri section(18-36 months); Premio Orbil 2014.

Nicola Grossi, after graduating in modern literature at the University of Urbino, he specialized in cultural anthropology at Bologna, where he became part of the national Nati per Leggere project as volunteer reader at the Salaborsa Ragazzi library. Together with a group of musicians he started the c’eraunanota cultural association that promotes literature and music in childhood through theatrical productions. In 2013, minibombo published his first book, Bear, hole!, winner of the Orbil and Nati per Leggere awards. 

26 January 2015

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