“The sea inside”. Indeed, the sea everywhere


By John

An island, mermaids, a little girl full of imagination, a loving grandmother, but above all the sea. Everywhere, actually everywhere. There is, recognizable and adored, the whole world of Nadia Terranovathe writer from Messina who is – also – one of the most loved and appreciated writers for children and teenagers, in the brand new «The sea everywhere» (Emme editions, First readings series), illustrated by Serena Mabilia.
On the other hand, literature for children is a challenge that requires a special commitment – and reserves very special gratifications, from the most serious and demanding public that exists -, and Terranova has always dealt with it, since the days of its «Bruno, the boy who learned to fly» (Unripe Ear, 2015, illustrated by Ofra Amit), which has become a long seller of children’s literature, and through, among others, the beautiful “The secret” (Mondadori, 2021, illustrated by Mara Cerri), who last year won the Strega Boys and Girls Prize and the Andersen Prizeand the recent, delicious «The Courtyard of the Seven Fairies» (Guanda, 2022, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani). Each time an intense and delicate story, with a touch of magic and dream, accompanied and supported by the illustrations, which are never an ornament, or a “image translation” of the text, but are part of the narrative device (even in the ” Secret” constitute a sort of parallel narrative line), build that “bubble” of suggestion that makes the stories of the “strict” author unique (and fascinating even for those who have long passed the “recommended age”).

Tatú is the little girl he sees «The sea everywhere», because he brings it inside, and renews his loving pact with the sea every summer, at his grandmother’s house. A recurring figure in the narratives of Terranova: there is a wise grandmother and a little “fairy”, or luminously “witch”, in the “Secret”; there is a grandmother, a powerful female figure, who is a point of reference for the protagonist of “Trema la notte” (Einaudi, 2022), the latest novel “for adults”.
The transmission of love, of a wisdom that is always understanding and welcoming and caring for creatures and places is the substance of these figures. Tatú’s grandmother stays on Broom Island, picking caper flowers, drinking cherry liqueur and talking to ghosts. And here are other recognizable “pieces” of Newfoundland’s narrative: the island, with its sea, the ghosts. The sea is always there, as a presence, as a protagonist, never just as a backdrop, rather as a refuge of wonders and memories, guardian of stories, creator of wonders, unlimited master of beauty. Tatú lives in the city, wears a scarf and wears rubber boots for the rain, but he carries the sea with him and around him, and the pages – everywhere – are delicately counterpointed by shells, fish, starfish, corals.
On the other hand, Tatú dreams clearly and loudly, and the dreams somehow resist, “they remain entangled in the head”, sometimes even between the fingers, or in the mirrors. And so ghosts are not frightening figures but beneficial presences, galleons that appear in the waves, tears that become flowers. Fish that circulate between the pages, among the puddles of a winter city. Like the ghosts of Terranova’s most celebrated novel, that «Goodbye ghosts» (Einaudi, 2018) which arrived in five at Strega 2019 and which was also staged last year: ghosts finally evoked to reconcile with life and close the wounds, in the house on the island, between the two seas.
The story of Tatú is intertwined with another story, more ancient and fabulous, that of the pirate and the wavy-haired girl, a failed mermaid or perhaps a real mermaid, by virtue of love: in the narratives of Newfoundland – and it has no sense, here, the distinction between stories “for children” and “for adults” – the will to love manages to change destinies, can even transform a catastrophe into a liberation (in «Trema la notte» the protagonists go through one of the most great collective tragedies of Italy, the 1908 earthquake on the Strait, and in some way they bring about its rebirth), or a revolt in a wedding party (the islanders of Isola delle Ginestre celebrating the pirate’s “wedding on the water” in love).
The delicate story of «The sea everywhere» answers many questions: it tells us that the sea speaks to us, that no one is lost if it «finds its horizon», that «home» can be in many places, «even the beard pirate’s black”, that dreams are a very important part of reality, and that “when you dream something intensely, that something can come looking for you”.
But this is precisely why we continue to read: because we believe in dreams and their power, and in the stories that demonstrate it to us, with grace and beauty, at any age.

Illustrations by Serena Mabilia

The island of brooms

The protagonist Tatu

The Pirate’s Wedding