Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Crystal Corocher!

It is with great delight to have the amazing Crystal Corocher here to share her remarkable story; Giovanni – a true tale of the incredible voyage on the SS India; a dangerous expedition that saw eager Italian families endure the intrepid journey across the seas to a new colony, Australia. This powerful story featuring Crystal’s great-grandfather, Giovanni, is told in dual languages with such emotion and soul, paired with the stunning illustrations by Margeaux Davis that sweep its readers into every sense of adventure, despair, hope, optimism and love. It’s an honour and privilege to welcome this book of historical significance and heartfelt resonance into being. Thank you, Crystal, for sharing the background of this valuable picture book! 🙂

About the Author

Crystal Corocher is an author, editor and lover of stories. 

In 2022 Crystal was shortlisted for the ABIA Rising Star of Australian Publishing Award.

She enjoys sharing stories and creative writing workshops with students of all ages. 

Crystal’s debut picture book is The Naked Sheep (illustrated by Rebel Challenger, Larrikin House), and her most recent release is Giovanni (illustrated by Margeaux Davis, Wombat Books).

Visit Crystal Corocher at her website: www.crystalcorocher.com and on Facebook and Instagram.

Giovanni can be purchased via Wombat Books and in all good bookstores.

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

Giovanni is written by Crystal Corocher

Illustrated by Margeaux Davis

Translated by Jada Volpato & Nicola Volpato

Published by Wombat Books

When is its release / launch date?

Giovanni is officially released – October 2023.

WHAT is it about?

Giovanni tells the story of the SS India expedition, a scam carried out by a corrupt French nobleman, Marquis de Rays, who preyed on farming families and promised them a new colony akin to the French Riviera on a tropical oasis. The families had the option of paying five thousand francs or trading five years of labour to the new colony, which was most common as the families were mostly young and eager but not from wealthy means. 340 Italians from the region of Veneto boarded the ship with only 217 eventually rescued after being stranded in New Caledonia and were brought to Australia. Giovanni – my great-grandfather – being one of them. The tragic loss of lives was due to starvation, exposure, and diseases like malaria.

WHY is this book meaningful to you?

This book is meaningful to an extended community, in particular the descendants of that voyage, the 40 Italian family names that were among the first Italians in Australia – since 1881. And it’s also proving to be meaningful to the Italian and wider migrant community. It has meant a lot to me to be a part of that, and to see the impact on the older generation –  for them to see the story being shared in print. They’ve been the ones to pass it down, and make sure we have all known and understood where we came from so to see grandparents happy and buying it for their grandchildren is really special.

Why would its message resonate with readers?

I think we are so much more open to learning about the origins of our multi-cultural country and being compassionate with each other these days. I think it would be hard to read Giovanni and not feel a sense of the dire situation the families were put in and the hope it conveys to survive something like that. It pulls at the heart strings, and it should. They overcame incredible odds and began a new life courageously and with very open and optimistic hearts, given the circumstances. I’m inspired by the tenacity of those survivors, and I hope their story finds fresh life now in libraries and schools. I think readers with migrant backgrounds may feel the story in a more personal way, but I hope it resonates with readers widely because of the human element and reality of this slice of history.

What is your favourite part of this book?

The first and last pages. I wanted a nod to migrants of all backgrounds, a little acknowledgement of the many things that people of different backgrounds bring to share with one another and at the same time, I wanted to distil down in really simple, and also visual terms, that the families were leaving everything established and familiar behind them – eventually starting a new life, from the dust so to speak, once they were rescued. I know that sounds a bit wordy and nuanced when I attempt to explain it, but these are the intentions I was writing into the lemon tree scenes.

HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

Oh…Romi… let me count the ways…

Seriously, Margeaux Davis is a special talent. She took so much care to do her own research and took the time to visit New Italy Museum where a tribute to those Italians can be found. She was meticulous about the regional and period clothing style (which I thought would be a total bugbear if I made too many notes about, but she was all over it!) and just truly brought it to life. She also made it so visceral, you can feel the scenes, and I was / am over the moon to have such a sense of synergy in our work.

How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?

I am talking about this book to anyone who will listen (haha sorry, not sorry!). We launched in NSW at Historic New Italy Museum, then kept the chatter going with an in-conversation in Melbourne with the lovely Rebecca Fraser. The team at Mary Martin bookstore hosted a special bilingual storytelling with Giovanni for little readers at their new store at Victoria Markets, which was a joy! There have also been several school visits along the way with more to come. I’m really grateful to everyone who has gotten behind this book and shared this story; yourself on this platform, Ken Williams on the Tacos Podcast, friends on social media, it’s truly appreciated. I was also thrilled to spot a review in the recent CBCA Vic newsletter. Highlights from those events are on my website and socials and it’s available online and from your fav booksellers now.

OTHER information or experiences you’d like to share?

I’d like folks to go out and find it, read it, borrow it, share it, of course. But I also hope that we continue to see more migrant stories and diverse titles in general finding their way to book shops and libraries!

Absolutely! So many of us share these sentiments. A must-read story for all! Thanks again, Crystal! 🙂

#thequicksixinterview #giovanni #ssindia #migration #historicnewitalymuseum #picturebook #justkidslit

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