Thursday, June 28, 2012

There's a Crazy Dog Under the Palace! - Sotto Un Palazzo C'e' Un Cane Pazzo!

In my pursuit to learn more about the Italian culture of our ancestors, I sometimes run across Italian Americans, or descendants of Italians residing in other countries, who are making a contribution to the Italian culture in unusual ways.  Davide Cuccia is one of those people.  He has written and illustrated a children's book, available in both English and Italian, inspired by a Sicilian children's limerick.  I briefly interviewed Mr. Cuccia and he was kind enough to tell us about his book and his inspiration for it.

Interview with Davide Cuccia

Let's just start talking about the book, why you wrote it, what was your inspiration, what in the book might further a person's knowledge of Italian culture?

"What was my inspiration? Family!  As I get older, I appreciate the logic and "the flow" that comes from one thing naturally leading to another.  I rediscovered my family ties in Sicily in 1994, and subsequently my wife and I made our first trip (of three trips for three weddings) to Sicily in September of 1995.

After taking some basic courses in Italian at a local church in Columbus a good friend helped me prepare a small phrase book so that I could ask specific questions of my new-found family, and hopefully fill in some of the gaps in my family research.  My cousin, Antonino Cuccia, love the fact that I'd taken the time to prepare such a book, and helped me in everyway possible with anunciation of words, and even some fun phrases that would challenge my too-American tongue!  One phrase that I loved in particular was a children's limerick that goes "sotto un palazzo c'e' un cane pazzo...te pa stu cane stu pezzu' ri pane!" or "there's a crazy dog under the, crazy dog, a piece of bread."  I loved the flow of the phrase and practiced it often.

Flash forward to early 2010 - the three trips to Sicily and a three week visit from cousin Nino and his wife Rita (in 1999) are now wonderful wife and I are walking our black lab, Jasmine, and I'm telling her how I would love to illustrate a children's book involving animals.  She turns to me and simply says "why don't you use that phrase your cousin taught you about the crazy dog under the palace, and use Jasmine in the storyline as the crazy dog?"

It was a brilliant idea.  Simple and brilliant.  The logic lined up perfectly with the opportunities...if I hadn't found the family in Sicily through genealogy, I would never have heard the limerick...and if I hadn't heard the limerick, I would never have found the idea for a story to illustrate!  That was the beginning of the process."

What in the book might further a person's knowledge of Italian culture?

"For the setting: I've set the story at the Palazzo Comitini, a real palace in Palermo, Sicily which we've toured on one of our visits.  I've tried to portray the entrance, hallways, balconies, statues and artifacts found in the palace as accurately as possible for a greater sense of realism to envelop the characters as the story progresses.
For the Italian "feel" to the story: I didn't "grow up Italian", as the phrase goes, because my grandfather, Sebastiano Cuccia, left the family during the Depression when my father was 10 years old.  I grew up with no trace of Italian culture or language in the home, just loving, caring parents who taught me that friendship and a smile can do wonders for most situations!  That's something I wanted to bring to this book, first and foremost.  To me that represents the warmth and love of the Italian people. Period.  I'd also decided that if I were going to write and illustrate this book, the finished product would have to appear in two versions, English and Italian...after all, the whole concept started with a Sicilian wouldn't be fair not to see it through to it's logical conclusion!"

Doesn't this book sound great!  If you have a child in your life you would like to share something related to the Italian culture with, please consider buying this book.

The book can be ordered by going to and clicking on the Online Store link

Hardcover is $29.95 per book
Paperback is $21.95 per book

Both can be ordered in either English or Italian

Bravo, Davide!!!