In the world today, I fear the urgency of overcoming Godwhoever he is.
I say the urge to overcome, not to reach it, not to see it in any of its manifestations, but to come to hold in our hands what – hypothetically – belongs to God: to perform miracles, to erase problems, to reach perfection. And I think that’s right perfection what modern man aims for. The man who gradually began to replace his identity, his uniqueness, with something else. With the obsessive accumulation of power, titles, success. To have or to beafter tracing Fromm, this is the real question, that which modern Hamlet would toot with the skull in his hand, the symbol of the now lost humanity. But what does all this have to do with children’s literature? Given the context just described, what can children’s literature and illustrated books then serve?
To entertain, with a goodnight story, that pod in wraps before it becomes a man before it evolves and begins to strive for perfection? Or, I throw it there, it could serve to stimulate the right questions … To touch the conscience, I think. And I can be sure of that if the children’s literature, if the illustrated book is The valley of the mills (published in Italian in 2013 by the publisher Terre di Mezzo), whose story is the one written by Noelia Blanco and the illustrations are off Valeria Docampo.
We are in an imaginary universe, a wonderful world, a valley of the mills, like the wise magical realism of Docampo fixed in openings from warm and soft colors. It’s about material brush strokesfrom vibrant colors and also of dreams.
But there is more: “Men, women and boys lived in Valle dei Mulini just like everyone else. ” Nothing strange so far, we could say. Yet, just a line later, the story – what should be a story for children – opens up the dystopian world I mentioned above: “Then, one day, the perfect machines arrived.” Yes, the initials are large.
Let’s continue browsing the registry: “Thanks to Perfect Machines, everything was perfect. It was enough to press a button to experience a perfect moment, eat a perfect dessert, make a perfect friend … So what’s the point of asking shooting stars to fulfill desires?” . Attention, modern tragedy begins because “So it was that the inhabitants of Valle dei Mulini stopped dreaming”.
Thus it happens that modern man is stuck in his own creations, so that myopia has come, so bordering on perfection has made us not gods, but inhuman. Terrible. Fortunately, however, there are books like this, books that you might buy for the beauty of the illustrations and then find yourself having a very current story in your hands, a story that helps the child not to get lost and the adult to find himself.
In fact, I’ve only told you part of the story; because you know when everything starts to get ugly and cold and to become sterile, the more the remaining light starts to shine through the shadows. We would say this to a child, and I now turn to the very child hidden in each of our readers. But I do not want to use my words, I bring them off Blanco: “And yet some hidden dreams doze here and there in the heart of the Valle dei Mulini. One is Anna, the seamstress of the village.”
Anna is rooted in her humanity and she is not ashamed to cherish dreams. Then one evening – when the perfect machines are at rest – he sees in the distance, where the mills sleep, the outline of the Birdman. Poor thing, he’s trying to fly, but in new worldto Perfectthere is no more wind, neither for him nor for turning the wings of the mills.
Now the question is a must: Will we achieve this? It would not be fair to tell you the story when it ends. But I hope it can somehow fascinate you. Because you know beautiful literature – especially children’s literature – does not pretend to teach us anything at all, but is the fruit of an alert and prophetic gaze. A look that I hope we could get used to.
Valeria Docampo is an Argentine illustrator, born in Buenos Aires and trained in graphic design and visual arts. He has taught at the university for several years and has dedicated himself to illustration for children and worked for publishers on five continents. She draws captured by the desire to convey the beauty of nature and stories, using both traditional and digital and innovative techniques and methods. She currently lives in Lyon, from where she tries to see the world through her little girl’s eyes every day.
Noelia Blanco, author of the text, is from Argentina but lives in Lyon. He found his key to deciphering the world in traditional music and children’s literature.