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Bruno Munari, children’s books and education

Bruno Munari was one of 20th-century Italy’s most eclectic figures. Over the course of his lengthy career as an artist and designer, Munari explored the field of materiality with highly intriguing results. His picturebooks set a precedent in the field of children’s literature, and they are much loved even today. Children are fascinated by the opportunity to organize the experience of reading more freely thanks to ingenious graphical and typographical mechanisms that fully exploit the editorial potential of materials.

Munari had a very thorough understanding of the publishing sector, covering everything from the writing of a text to the preparation of illustrations, from the study of the graphical content to the choice of page layout, the materials, the cover, the binding, and the various typographical solutions. He worked with a passion, and his incessant experimenting in the publishing sector made him particularly agile in recreating a harmonious balance between four crucial aspects of the book-making process: (i) a smooth interaction between the text and the communicational support, or paratext; (ii) the value added by illustrations and, more in general, the visual-perceptive apparatus of the book; (iii) the polysemic value of the materials used, and the way in which the book is printed; and (iv) the emotional analysis that accompanies the reading and handling of the book object by the reader. It is thanks to this expertise, and to a good dose of executive freedom, that Munari was able to design children’s books that were incredibly innovative at the time of their production. They were books conceived as genuine encounters, capable of soliciting absorbing reading experiences.

The symbiotic child. Rethinking the Vegetal through Children’s Literature

Much has been said about the importance for children to be aware of, respect, appreciate and comprehend the subjectivity of another. From this perspective, animals and nature play an important role because children seem to be able to quickly develop a deep and long-term intimate association with nature and other species.

Although the exposure of children to nature through books has been declining in many ways, the representation of symbiotic interactions between children and other species is quite common in children’s literature. However, contemporary research emphasises that there has been a shift in children’s books towards a more innovative eco-evolutionary approach.

The aim of this research project is to investigate the shift that has occurred in both children’s fiction and non-fiction and to explore some research paths with scholars, authors and illustrators that can help to expand the potential of children’s literature to propagate environmental awareness.

House, architecture, domestic geography and “narrating objects” in children’s literature

The house is an inescapable topos of children’s literature. In its multiple variations (shelter, nest, hut, house, castle, urban cluster and so on), it gives shape to various forms of human habitation and embodies one of the most beloved and sacred places in human existence, a space in which to mull over one’s condition, build relationships with others and outline the perimeters of our existence in the world.

Homes, their interiors (e.g. bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, attics, cellars and gardens) and many domestic objects can be used to investigate the cultural and social changes in children’s literature.

Picturebooks, visual literacy and aesthetic sensitivity

In their everyday lives children are phagocytosed by the world of images. They grow up interacting with images and visual screens long before they learn to read. In toddlers visual precedes verbal alphabetization. They learn to look at and recognize people, animals and objects long before they learn to name them. What is more, their assiduous use of digital devices forges their way of looking at the world – a way in which the main route via which they receive information relies on images, certainly not words. If educational awareness is combined with a literary, iconographic, aesthetic and socio-cultural expertise, this way of gaining knowledge in childhood can generate excellent educational outcomes. Picturebooks can contribute very strongly to the training of this expertise, particularly as regards iconic narration and aesthetic sensitivity.

History of Italian Children’s literature

This research area explores the history of Italian children’s literature by investigating some prominent Italian authors and Italian children’s classic books.

Un fiore per Rodari

Rodari conceived of little things as a space for experimentation and freely exercising the processes of the creative imagination and of invention. – SOURCES –

Fashion and clothing in children’s literature

Contemporary research has confirmed the close relationship between sartorial studies, history, visual culture and children’s literature and a growing number of studies have attempted to draw hitherto unseen parallels between clothing and fashions, as described in many popular children’s books and fairy tales.

Some studies have underlined how a closer analysis of clothing and fashion can contribute to a deeper understanding of texts, their contexts, and their innovations, “even challenging, in some cases, traditional readings”.

Taking this research perspective, the research project aims to answer the following research questions: is clothing relevant in children’s books and fairy tales? Why? Is there an established standard for dressing characters in children’s classic books? What is the relationship between dressing them and subsequent developments of the tale?

Illustrazione © di Emmanuelle Houdart, tratta da E. Houdart, Rifugi, #logosedizioni, 2015