A spiritual testament: Il Buon Viaggio

Italian Illustrator and artist Gianni De Conno passed away last August, just after managing to finish this book together with author Beatrice Masini.
Il buon viaggio has received yesterday the Andersen Special Jury Award, the highest recognition given to authors and illustrators in Italy.

De Conno was awarded many prizes, including the Gold Medal Society of Illustrators in 2008 and 2010, and the iBbY Honour List in 2006.
He published works in Italian, Spanish and French, and in English, illustrating authors the likes of  Herman Melville, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Garcia Lorca, Gabriel GarciaMarquez and Italo Calvino.
De Conno was a multifaceted artist: he used traditional illustration techniques (oil, acrylic), but he also explored digital painting developing a very unique visual language.
His 'gentle Surrealism' is made of static, lofty humans and visionary landscapes, a spectacular art and an incredible mastery of painting technique which just leave us breathless.

Il Buon Viaggio can be considered his spiritual and artistic testament, a lyric narration harmonising with silent yet strongly evocative illustrations to be an ode to all journeys: journeys with and without a destination, lonely journeys and those with a companion, short, long, dreamy journeys and journeys with our eyes wide open. Easy and difficult journeys, journey that end in another journey.
But when is a journey a good one?
When we reach the end and we are unsure whether that is the end or just a stop, when we realise that we don't know anything, and we feel ready to leave again.

This might sound a 'difficult' book for children, if we look at it from the traditional perspective, thinking that picture books for children must either have a moral or some sort of straight-forward meaning packaged in a story.
Children can however understand different expressive languages and can definitely benefit from being exposed to lyric prose and to art.
Well in fact, children should definitely be exposed to art as early as possible. Montessori education has a great focus on this. Grazie Honegger Fresco, Maria Montessori's pupil and leading Montessori educator in Italy, suggests to have artworks in the baby's room (yes, babies!) instead of stickers or posters.
The complexity of art (versus the over-simplistic imagery of children's merchandise, conceived by marketers) stimulates the child's brain feeding it with endless details.

The book has four pages at the end, a sort of 'Travel Diary' where the child is encouraged to write down information about her past and future trips and journeys.
Young children don't usually travel much, if not for short trips, reason being that it is difficult to maintain the routine they thrive on while travelling, and this can become stressful for both parents and children.
Toddlers and preschoolers tend to prefer their home to the idea of leaving, and prefer travelling to a place they know instead of leaving for a new one. The unknown and unforeseen will not be exciting until they grow older, developing the pleasure of discovery, which should definitely be supported.
Being a mother to two children under 4, I am only starting now to gently get them used to the idea of exploring new places and this book can be helpful and truly inspiring in this sense.
Thank you Gianni, travel safely.
Il Buon Viaggio
by Beatrice Masini
Illustrated by Gianni De Conno
Reading age: 4+
Themes: Travelling, Exploring, Poetry

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