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A photograph of the Italian beach life:
In spiaggia [At the beach]


A day at the beach, as seen by a young girl who is busy playing and looking at humans around her.
This is not a tropical, hidden beach but a crowded family-friendly public beach in August somewhere in Italy, one of those many young children will be familiar with.
As her family starts settling with beach chairs and all sorts of equipment, unpacking bags of food and toys, the girl is told not to go too far.
As she starts digging a hole and walks to the seashore to find some seashells to decorate it, she gets stuck, immersed in that human landscape.
Suddenly she thinks to be lost, for what feels a very long moment, just before realising that she is just a few metres away from her family's parasol.

Susanna Mattiangeli is a prolific and much loved Italian author, she talks to children from their perspective with a light, fluid writing, making it extremely easier for them to relate with the story.
She also is a great observer of mankind: this is indeed a book encouraging observation, exquisitely illustrated by Vessela Nikolova, talented Italian artist of Bulgarian origin with as much attention to detail.
Alongside her contribution to children illustration, Vessela works in Milan as a pret-a-porter fashion designer, which explains her amazingly precise look at the human body and awareness of style (just look at the plethora of swimsuits and accessories).
In fact, the focus is on beach people, that specific type of colonisers invading easily accessible beaches during the summer, and on their bodies: bodies that are hidden under the clothes throughout the year and are suddenly uncovered at the beach.
The landscape is described at child's height: a collection of children's faces among many grown up bodies with their lazy legs and feet, jutting bellies and bottoms of all shapes.
In Spiaggia is packed with details where children will get lost.

The first and last pages are amusing (well, real fun if you know some stereotypes about Italians) lists of things to do at the beach.
Cool things to do at the beach:
- dig a tunnel and let the sea come in;
- be friend with a kid who own an inflatable;
- own an inflatable and be friend with someone who doesn't;
- dig a hole and hide it with the beach towel;
- look at people's face when falling in the hole;
- destroy sand castles before leaving.



Boring stuff to do at the beach:
- put the suncream on;
- stay quiet in the shade;
- not bother people next to you;
- say hi to the old lady you met last year, showing her how much you've grown;
- go and buy crisps on your own;
- run into the sea against the waves;
- not swim because of jellyfish;
- wash your feet before leaving;
- pack everything and leave.


In spiaggia was published in Italian by Topipittori (Giovanna Zoboli's publishing Company) and came out in April. It's a small gem as it provides a cross section of the Italian culture and lifestyle, but  it will be super entertaining for any child. I'd love to compare lists of children from around the world! This can maybe be an idea for a sequel:)
I really do hope to see this title published in English soon.
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In spiaggia [2018]
Words by Susanna Mattiangeli
Images by Vessela Nikolova
Italian edition published by Topipittori
Reading age: 3+
Themes: Seasons, Summer, Beachlife, Play


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