Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book
Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter
By Rosie Scammell

“In the book, the egg encounters a pair of gay penguins, lesbian rabbits successfully bringing up a family, as well as other family models, including a single parent hippo, a mixed race dog couple, and kangaroos that have adopted polar bear cubs.

The book, however, was met with disapproval by Venice’s new mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, who in June banned Piccolo Uovo and about 50 other titles from schools. The decision led more than 250 Italian authors to demand their own books be removed from the city’s shelves, a move one writer described as a “protest against an appalling gesture of censorship and ignorance”.

Now Pardi has found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis, who through his staff has written to the author praising her work. “His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B Wells, a senior official at the Vatican secretariat of state.

The letter, dated 9 July and recently seen by the Guardian, was a response to a parcel of children’s books sent by Pardi to the pontiff in June. The collection from her publisher, Lo Stampatello, including seven or eight books which deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues (LGBT), was accompanied by a heartfelt letter from the author describing the attacks she has come under in recent months.

Pardi said she had not expected a reply and was surprised to receive the letter at her Milan home. “It’s not that I think that he’s for gay families, because there’s the Catholic doctrine, but we mustn’t think that we don’t have rights,” she said.

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“There are several ways in which Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown invites comparison with Susanna Clarke’s best-selling, BBC-adapted Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell,” says reviewer Amal El-Mohtar. “It features squabbling English magicians, a Regency setting, and a mysterious decline in English magic attributed at least in part to difficult relations with capricious fairies. But where Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a severe, atmospheric marshalling of scholarship both fantastical and historical — a book about books, riddled with footnotes and nested stories — Sorcerer to the Crown is a relentlessly charming, character-driven romance in which women and people of color take center stage.”

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– Petra

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