As you make your way up the stairs, you meet all 15 tenants of the building, who are busy preparing a special dish to share with their neighbours: Pilar’s salmorejo; Mr Ping’s sesame soy broccoli; Mrs Lella’s spaghetti with tomato sauce; Mr Singh’s coconut dahl; Mrs Ishida’s oyakodon; Mr Ibrahim’s baba ganoush and Matilda’s strawberry crumble, just to name a few.
It’s a real culinary journey that comes to an end in the communal garden where everyone is welcome to share a meal in a carefree atmosphere, and where food is a universal language that unites people and forges bonds.
Have we tickled your tastebuds and piqued your curiosity?
If so, we recommend you head to 10 Pomegranate Street, or Via dei Giardini in the Italian version, with the beautifully illustrated cookbook by Felicita Sala, winner of the 2020 Andersen Prize.
Sala was honoured and taken aback to have won the prestigious Italian prize for children’s literature in June.
“It was a surprise; I didn’t think they knew me in Italy,” she said.
Sala works mainly with foreign publishers and Lunch At 10 Pomegranate Street is no exception: it was first published in French and English and was the first Australian book by the self-taught artist, who has a special bond with the country.
Born in Rome, Sala migrated to Perth with her family at the age of seven.
The family was divided between Italy and Western Australia for a few years before settling in Perth for good.
“I didn’t know a word of English and I was taking ESL (English as a Second Language) lessons,” Sala said.
“After a year, I was already speaking with an Australian accent.”
Sala developed a passion for drawing and painting at an early age but she began to explore her talent more seriously when she returned to Europe on a permanent basis, after completing her university studies.
While in Europe, she discovered children’s illustration, which is considered a real art form on the continent, unlike in Australia where at the time it was still an underdeveloped field.
“It was what I always wanted to do and I didn’t even know it existed,” she said.
“So I started to read up on it and embarked on a very long and difficult path.
“I didn’t have a course of study or mentor; I had to do everything alone.”
Sala admitted that there were times when she almost gave up on pursuing a career as a children’s illustrator.
“I had a natural talent but knowing how to draw wasn’t enough,” she explained.
“You must have the mentality of narration through images and know how to interpret the text, as well as being original.”
Sala said illustrating a children’s book is like “imagining a film”.
“Each page must have a dynamic frame and relate to the others; there must be a rhythm throughout the book,” she added.
Sala is inspired by her surroundings and everyday experiences, “from life, to memories, children’s movements, people and their faces, which I really like to observe on the bus or while they walk by”.
An illustration from Lunch At 10 Pomegranate Street
Sala’s personal experience living between two different countries has also influenced – and continues to influence – her art.
“When I came to Italy, I felt my Australian identity even more strongly,” she said.
“When you have two identities, the more distant one is always stronger.
“In my opinion, this can also be seen in my work.”
Each volume requires a long process that can take from three to six months and, today, Sala considers herself lucky to be able to work full-time as an illustrator.
Before devoting herself entirely to her true passion, Sala taught languages.
She shared with us some words of advice for teachers:
“Picture books are perfect for language studies because the images complement the text, filling in the blanks and making it more interesting.”
“It’s important to keep looking at images even up until the age of 10; it’s like going to see art at a gallery,” she added.
Of all the titles Sala has published in the last five years, Lunch At 10 Pomegranate Street (Una festa in via dei giardini) has a special place in her heart: it’s the first book she’s illustrated and written on her own.
Sala said it’s just a taste of what’s to come.
In fact, she’s currently working on the sequel, which promises to be another visual feast to share and delight in.
For more information or to purchase Lunch At 10 Pomegranate Street, visit the Scribble website.