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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Garden Of Inside-Outside (The)
by Chiara Mezzalama
Age Range: 6-8
Inspired by the author’s childhood, this graphic novel beautifully evokes two very different worlds. On the inside – a neglected palace, where princes and princesses once lived, with a wild walled garden full of pomegranate trees, tall grasses, plane trees, a fountain and a pond with a carp that is one hundred years old. On the outside – a city that has collapsed into war and now there is gunfire, exploding bombs, and soldiers with heavy boots and big beards.
Chiara and her younger brother play in the garden with their dog. At the bottom of the garden are some locked iron gates which they can look through and hear ‘the city-monster breathing darkly’. One day, a boy called Massoud climbs over the wall. They are unable to speak the same language, but Massoud and Chiara become friends as they find a way to communicate together. Chiara comes to learn how difficult it is to mix inside and outside – “the wall had a good side and a bad side. But who says which side of the wall you’re on? Who gets to choose?”
Italian author Chiara Mezzalama’s story is based on her recollections and is an evocative story of an unexpected friendship between a girl and a boy, worlds apart and on either side of war and peace, captured in the lyrical text, translated by Sarah Ardizzone, and the stunning artwork by Regis Lejonc. The exquisitely powerful illustrations, in rich block colour show majestic Islamic architecture, a lush green walled garden, and the colourful imagined world of princes and princesses contrasting with the stark red and black images of war – each illustration telling its own story.
At the front of the book, the author gives a historical timeline of events that gives the story its context. Set two years after the overthrow of the Shah and the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in early 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini, it was during these disturbing times that Mezzalama’s father took up his position as Italy’s ambassador to Iran and in the summer of 1981 Chiara and her family join her father in Tehran.