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The silent poetry of everyday life: Professional Crocodile


It's quite unusual to see books by Italian authors here so I noticed this one straight away among the latest releases in our local Daunt Books store. Don't get me wrong, there are some, but I mostly need to buy online.
I opened it and fell in love with the illustrations and in a matter of minutes it was in my bag.

Italian author, editor and art director Giovanna Zoboli (founder of publishing company Topipittori) has worked with talented illustrator Mariachiara Di Giorgio giving us a book which is a real pleasure to the eye and also real fun :)

The story
The main character is a crocodile, pictured as a true gentleman living his very Italian life (this is how I see it through my expat-eyes:) in a beautiful Italian city (Rome, I assume).
We follow him while he goes through his daily morning routine: alarm, waking up, slippers, toilet with the windows open (ah Italy:), picking the perfect tie, breakfast+coffee sitting in the kitchen, putting on an elegant coat and a Borsalino hat and Sbam! off to work.
We keep following him along the way, taking the tram and tube [spoiler] buying lunch and flowers for the lady working at the entrance of the city zoo, where he starts his day of work as a crocodile.
If you can read Italian I strongly recommend that you read the full subject matter here.
It is so fascinating to read it as it was in the author's mind, and you can also have a feeling of the amazing work that Mariachiara Di Giorgio did for this book.


The story lay on Giovanna Zoboli's desk for around a decade, waiting for the right person to illustrate it, and this beautiful, generous 32-page silent book was finally out in 2017.
Where is the crocodile going? what does he do along the way? My daughter gets lost in the illustrations: she loves to look at all the details, from the city buildings, to the underground, to the people around him, telling me exactly what he is doing and making assumptions on his destination.
Each image is meant to be observed multiple times, to spot new things.

The idea of putting here and there totally anthropomorphic animals where we wouldn't expect them to be (like among the crowds on public transport) is genius.
Then there is the heart-warming portrayal of Rome, the hustle of the neighbourhood, the reassurance of our daily routine, with the usual objects, itineraries and gesture.
Italian expat parents should expect some nostalgia rising after seeing this :)

Mariachiara's background in cinema comes up very strongly: from the choice of an horizontal format, to the storyboard structure of the book. But you can see it in the amount of detail above all. She is the director and scenographer of this story.

When a silent book is well made, like this one, it can be a great to support independent reading in young children and to build focus, especially for preschoolers.
I made a test this time and offered the book to my daughter (who is 3 and a half) to have a look on her own, while we would normally read it together first.
Interestingly she showed to be able to catch much more than I thought, she needed to go back and fourth many times and she got lost in the details initially.

It took multiple reads to reconstruct the story, and we are still in the middle of finding all the animals:)
I suppose that the expectation of  'using-up' a book all at once comes very much from us adults, while there is nothing wrong trying a step-by-step approach with some books, without us reading, suggesting, telling, summarising, explaining.

The requirement for this to work without generating frustration in the child (especially if quite young) is of course to have a very engaging book, with beautiful illustrations.

Professional Crocodile has been awarded in Italy, France, America, and it has also been published in Spanish, Korean and Chinese.


Professional Crocodile [2017]
by Giovanna Zoboli
Illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Published in English by Chroniclebooks
Published in Italian by Topipittori [Professione Coccodrillo]
Reading age: 3+
Themes: Animals, Fun, Routine












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