What is happening to children's literature in Italy, particularly in Venice? Luigi Brugnaro took over as mayor of Venice in June, many people thought his priorities might clean up corruption that rocked Venice with over-funded protective floodgates.
Instead, Brugnaro focused on cleaning up the city's primary schools, namely 49 so-called "dirty books" touching on issues such as non-traditional families and gender issues.
The banned books are among 1,098 new books for children that the Venice school district paid some €10,000 for in 2014. The blacklist includes titles from award-winning Italian and international children’s authors like Leo Leonni, whose book Little Blue and Little Yellow tells a fictional tale of two genderless circles that hug so hard they become green.
Another banned book—called What’s Dad’s Secret?—tells a tale of a divorced father whose children worry he has a terminal disease when he starts acting strange around them, only to be overjoyed to learn that instead he has simply fallen in love with his male friend, Luca.
And there’s I’m Not Like The Others by French author Janik Coat, which is about animals that are different from their traditional species, which is as much about physical and religious differences as it is about sexuality.
Public pressure could have an influence on the book ban. Last week, 263 Italian and foreign authors whose books are in Venice schools sent a letter to the mayor asking that their books also be removed from schools as a show of solidarity with the banned authors.
Venetian residents are also holding Flashmob-style read-ins of the books in public venues, and they have started a Facebook page called “Free our Books” where they post pictures of children reading the banned books.
As a personal aside, this blogger has just returned from two weeks in Rome, Ravenna, and Loro Piceno. Democracy was palpable, as was thoughtfulness, and an aura of judiciousness. One can only hope the honorable mayor of Venice will reconnect with the Italian citizens who protest his outrageous actions.