Sharjah The creator of popular children’s book series ‘Geronimo Stilton’, which has sold 170 million copies in 49 languages, announced several surprises at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Tuesday.

Italian writer Elisabetta Dami had hundreds of UAE schoolchildren screaming with excitement as she revealed Sharjah would be featured in the overall plot of the next edition to the series, which will see Geronimo, a kind-hearted, bumbling mouse, travel the world on an epic adventure.

With 249 editions, Geronimo Stilton is one of the bestselling series ever written.

Though the series is hugely popular globally, Dami is lesser-known as her name does not appear on the cover – instead the series credits Geronimo Stilton as the author.

Origins of Geronimo

On Tuesday, Dami also told students at SIBF about the origins of Geronimo, a mild-mannered editor of the make-believe newspaper ‘The Rodent’s Gazette’. Dami revealed that when she found out she could not have children of her own, she started to volunteer at a children’s hospital. It was there she started telling children stories about “a funny, shy and tender mouse”, Geronimo Stilton.

She wanted to convey to children “many important values, like kindness, courage, integrity, loyalty, sincerity, and most of all, respect” – all of which are demonstrated by Geronimo as he reluctantly, but inevitably, finds himself landing in another adventure every edition.

Dami, born in 1958, urged children to read, saying books are “our window to the world” that lets us “discover new friends”, both fictional and real.

Surprise appearance

Students from various UAE schools cheered as, to their surprise, Geronimo Stilton (as personified by a mascot) walked up to the stage in the giant ballroom of SIBF-venue Expo Centre. They also saw a behind-the-scenes video of how a Geronimo Stilton book is created from scratch, developed and published, finally making its way to the bookshelf.

Dami, with Geronimo standing by her side, also took questions from the students and promised to also reply later to those who did not get a chance for their question to be heard.

“Why do you hide your name?” one student asked. Dami replied: “The message is more important than the person,” adding that Geronimo “is our friend, our hearts are with him”. Besides, Geronimo is a publisher himself, she pointed out.

Childhood friend

Dami also revealed that she, as a little girl, had “a sweet mouse” called Benjamin, who gave her company while she did her homework. She said mice are curious like children, adding that curiosity fuels learning.

Dami took group photos with the students and signed books at the end of her session at SIBF.