Author: Hayley Egan
Hayley Egan RRP $24.95
Review: Monique Mulligan
If I was in the children’s library choosing a book for young children, I’d find it hard to walk past this book. The strong, vibrant cover is attractive to the eye, and the Italian title, Pizzica Pizzica, a mystery … is it about pizza? A quick glance through would quash that idea, but would also reveal pages of brightly coloured artwork and a charming bilingual tale. The book came to me, not through the library, but direct from author Hayley Egan, so while I had some idea of what to expect content-wise, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole package.
Told in English and Italian, Pizzica Pizzica is about the healing power of dance (the pizzica is an Italian folk dance that’s part of the wider family of tarantelle dances). A young girl lies in bed feeling heavy and empty; when her parents seek a doctor’s help, they are told she has been bitten by a tarantula and the only cure is dancing. Her father brings home musicians who play “a bouncing beat”, enticing the girl to leave her bed and dance. Something about that music makes her feel alive and free – it makes her let go of the heaviness.
While this book could be used in an educational setting, Egan says that was not the intention. Rather, her desire is to “evoke children’s natural curiosity about languages, music, the culture of Southern Italy, and ancient rituals”, as well as provide an opportunity for children for monolingual homes to come into contact with another language. As someone who is slowly learning Italian, I found it a great incentive to dig out the books again. I particularly liked the layered meanings of the text – has the girl really been bitten by a spider (which young children would understand), is it about that feeling when music or art or something gives you a jolt, or is there a more emotional reason for her feeling of emptiness and heaviness (which an adult reader would discern)? Younger and older readers will get something different from it.
The text is complemented by simple, vibrant watercolour illustrations, with great visual appeal. Here’s a sample (my favourite):
A lovely book, one I’d recommend both for educative or cultural purposes. There’s lots of scope for discussion depending on the audience age, but even better, turn up the music and dance!