Giovanni: A true story of survival – a voyage re imagined
By Crystal Corocher
Illustrated by Margeaux Davis
Reviewed by Margarite Igras
The author, Crystal Corocher has written this heartfelt and historical story about how her ancestors from Veneto, Italy migrated to Australia in 1881. It is told through the innocent eyes of a four-year-old boy, who is her great grandfather. The wonderful watercolour illustrations by Margeaux Davis poignantly capture those simple yet expressive faces that weave a picture of the anguish, the hopes, and dreams of these people, as they embark on a new life far away.
Four-year-old Giovanni and his older brother Pietro are playing among the rows of lemon trees. Their mother calls them for dinner. As the boys approach the table laden with food for hungry people, they hear the grownups discussing a journey to a new place, a paradise. Soon Giovanni and his family and other villagers board a ship and for 121 treacherous days they experience wind and waves that lash wildly at the ship. But there was no paradise. The corrupt people- smuggling Captain offloaded the travelers onto an island with little food and no prospects. It was their rescue that brought them to Australia where they prospered and planted a lemon seed brought from their faraway home.
The text is written in English and Italian, which adds to the authenticity of the whole, though the larger English text makes this an Australian story. The illustrator has added gems of information such as the simple poster on the lemon tree advertising a Free colony being set up in the Pacific, those telling eyes of the family and villagers and the importance of family coming together for meals.
On the surface, it is a simple story of migration and survival, but I recommend a visit to the museum in New Italy, Woodburn NSW where the full story of this ill-fated De Rays Expedition is told. There is so much in this story to appeal to both young and older primary school children.