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Luca Tortolini and Marco Somà present “Che cos’è la scuola?”

Luca Tortolini, Marco Somà

We asked the authors to tell us more about how this book was born, which is having such a warm welcome and which we hope will accompany a truly new and more peaceful year for everyone, among the benches!

Luca, how did you get the idea for the text of this book? Intense, poetic, “Rodari style”, someone wrote…
The idea grew over time, going to schools to meet girls and boys. Talking with them and with the teachers. I had written the text before the pandemic. Throughout the time of school closures and uncertainties, I strongly missed this fundamental and founding world of our society.

Marco, tell us how it went that day when an editor from Terre di mezzo called you to ask you to illustrate it!
For years I have been following your catalog carefully and I really appreciate your publications and when I was contacted to make an appointment during the Bologna Children’s Book Fair to get to know each other and talk about a possible collaboration, it didn’t seem true. The text arrived some time later. Luca showed it to me in Macerata during my usual week of workshops at the Ars in Fabula school. After comparing ouselves, we thought it could become a perfect project for Terre. And fortunately it did.

At the time of this interview, the book has been in the hands of booksellers and readers for some time, there was great anticipation before the launch and now a nice welcome! What feedback are you receiving?
LUCA It is a very beautiful thing. Me, with my words, and Marco with his poetic images, we both tell of the love for the school world. And seeing that there is enthusiasm and interest can only amplify this love. Thanks.
MARCO I am particularly struck by the large number of comments I am receiving from the teachers, who contact me to let me know how much they found themselves in Luca’s poetic words and in my images. I am really happy for the affection and attention they are giving to our book.

Think back to the first day of primary school. A memory. And what did you like to read at that age.
LUCA The first day I was sorry to have to wear the blue apron, I remember this. After I was sitting for a while, I took it off and didn’t want to put it back on. I loved listening to or reading fairy tales, those of Andersen and those of Grimm. Even those of Italo Calvino.
MARCO I have to admit that I don’t have a precise memory of the first day of school. But I remember very well the teacher Natalina who accompanied me and my classmates in the first two years of elementary school before retiring. It was a precious and important meeting, both from a scholastic point of view and from a human point of view. At that time (and not only) I was crazy about Lindgren and Rodari.

Luca, this year you are the author of the Andersen 2021 Award for the Best Illustrated Book, with François Truffaut. Il bambino che amava il cinema, by Kite, illustrated by Victoria Semykina.
Marco, you received the Andersen in 2019 as Best Illustrator.

How did the passion for your profession come about and what would you say to a young person who wishes to undertake it?
LUCA Listening and reading stories has always been one of the most important things in my life for me, a generator of curiosity, a builder of meaning and feelings, a dispenser of emotions. You can’t live without stories, from the simple to the most elaborate. Having said that … by dint of reading at the end I started writing them. Then there is also to say that I have a deep love for images. The illustrated book seems to me a special language to tell a story: the dialogue between words and images takes place on fertile ground, where new expressions and new meanings are created … To those who start I tell you to go all the way, you can’t save yourself. Among Neil Gaiman’s advice is: “Finish what you are writing. Whatever you have to do, finish it, finish it ”. All time.
MARCO I have always loved drawing and I have never stopped cultivating this passion even when I was older. During high school, when teachers were doing their classes, I took drawing notes in books. It was precisely at that time that I discovered the profession of illustrator and I immediately understood that telling stories through images would become my job.
To a young person who wishes to undertake this profession I would like to say that, if he or she really believes in it, he/she must have patience, persevere, read a lot, study and never stop looking for his/her own voice.

What is the place where you usually work?
LUCA I work in my studio, at home. But ideas come to me everywhere, especially when I walk and drive the car. I think it is the movement that generates and focuses ideas and stories.
MARCO I usually work on an old wooden drafting machine from “Giallouovo”, a studio that I share with other professionals who deal with communication and printing for various fields. When I often travel to hold creative meetings or workshops, however, I adapt to work on the train table or on the desk in the hotel room. Fortunately, today technology allows us to work almost anywhere!

Che cos’è la scuola? will soon be translated and read also in France, Greece, Romania, South Korea. How do you think there is an intercultural dimension in your book? Can it be said that it carries a universal message?
LUCA AND MARCO Perhaps the reason for this “quick feedback” even beyond the border is that we have dealt with things that concern everyone: the creation of a community through school, the relationship with others, taking care of the environment, opening up to what is not we still know … the book offers ideas on various topics of common interest. We are very happy that the book will be in the hands of girls and boys outside of Italy.

Any previews of your forthcoming works?
LUCA I feel very close to Marco’s imaginary-poetic world… there will be other projects that we will do together, but it is still too early to talk about them.
MARCO My biggest desire is to be able to have more time to devote to drawing and to my students in illustration courses. For the rest, I have some projects that will gradually see the light in the next few years. I can’t anticipate anything yet, but I can tell you that at least for a couple you will see me paired with Luca again!


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  • Terre di mezzo

    Born in 1994, Terre di mezzo Editore is an Italian independent publisher based in Milan. We publish 100 books per year and we love to explore many and various worlds, from sustainable tourism to the discovery of different cultures, encouraging their coexistence. Our main goal is telling new powerful stories for both young and adult readers, and spreading creativity through sustainable handmade creations with our craft books.
    We also promote and organize Fa’ la cosa giusta!, the national fair of conscious consumption and sustainable lifestyles in Italy, held in Milan every March since 2004.

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