Library program brings local author, Italian words to story time

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 27, 2011


ROSEVILLE — A tiny woman with a cheerful, booming voice held a picture book in front of her, while leaning over so all the children could see.

She asked, “And who do you think this is? It’s someone that we love very much. We love our mommies and daddies, and who else do we love?”

A girl sitting in a row of chairs behind the story time carpet answered, “Grandma?”

“That’s right,” Josephine Gambini sang out to the room during a program held July 21 at the Roseville Public Library. “We love our nonni, our nonnas and nonnos — that’s how you say grandma and grandpa in Italian — nonna and nonno.”

The kids repeated the words after her. In the front row, 3-year-old Justine Brun giggled as the words rolled off her tongue.

In Gambini’s books — “Ciao, I am Poetino” and “Poetino Piccolino Saves the Day” — Italian words appear in bold here and there on every page, mixed in with what is a majority of words in English.

As her name foretells, Gambini is Italian. She said the story of the little boy named Poetino is actually her story.

“The mom and dad and grandma and grandpa are my mom and dad and grandma and grandpa.”

She had wanted to write the children’s books for a long time but she never had the time until she retired from her position as director of special education at the University of Detroit Mercy.

“If you are going to do a job, you got to do it right or not at all, so I waited,” Gambini said.

Her first book came out in March 2010 and her second exactly one year later. It was around that time that she first visited the Roseville Public Library.

“She stopped by the library and showed me her book and asked if I would want her to do a story time,” said youth librarian Annamarie Lindstrom. “The theme for our summer reading program was ‘One World, Many Stories,’ so her books fit in great.”

Lindstrom enjoyed Poetino’s tale, but there was another reason she wanted Gambini to come to the library — she was local.

“I love having local authors share their stories because there are future writers and future artists here, and they can see someone doing what they dream of doing and talk to them and ask questions about how they do it.”

And Gambini is almost the perfect example of a local author making her way in an industry that may seem to be growing more impenetrable with time. Gambini is self-published.

“You have to make a choice,” she said. “I spent six months researching publishers.” It wasn’t just the shopping around that put her off, though. “If I went through a traditional publisher, they would own the story and they could shorten it and change it — and I couldn’t let them do that.”

Gambini couldn’t let them do that because she says Poetino is not just her creation.

“My mother was the best storyteller ever,” she said. “Poetino was the name of the mouse in her stories. I changed it up and told the story of Poetino as a boy, so I could tell my story, but I did give him a pet mouse — Poetino Piccolino.”

In the end, it was the desire to not lose the spirit of her mother in the books that made her decide on self-publishing. It made things a lot harder at first. In the world of self-publishing, the funding comes out of pocket, but after just two years, Gambini said it is starting to pay for its self, and that makes her happy.

She doesn’t know if she’ll continue with the series. She said that if she does, the third book won’t come out until next spring. She’s busy marketing her two books in stores and libraries across the state, in the Little Italy area of Windsor, in California and in Italy.

“Bookstores and libraries have some of the most patient, helpful, kindest people in them,” she said. “It’s been wonderful.”

Along with her books, Gambini has audio CDs and workbooks designed for teaching English-speaking children the Italian language, and she is currently working on an Italian-to-English version, as well.

She spoke with a group of parents waiting around to purchase books before she left — they talked about having her come back to teach an Italian workshop for children. Nothing has been set with the library yet, but Gambini said she’d love to return.

“The Roseville library is so nice,” she said. “I’d like to come back often.”

The library’s summer reading program ends this month, but Lindstrom said parents and interested students should check the website at roseville in August and September for information on the programs that will be offered this fall.

The Roseville Public Library has one copy of both Gambini’s books available for checkout. Copies for purchase are available on, at New Horizon’s Bookstore in Roseville and on Gambini’s website,