Lars Guthrie's Reviews > The Adventures of Pinocchio

The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
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's review
Mar 18, 2011

it was amazing
Read in February, 2011

Three years ago, Robert Brock’s translation of ‘Pinocchio’ garnered a fair amount of attention, including mine. I realized I knew nothing about the darker original story, despite the Disney movie being a childhood favorite.

Actually, though, I couldn’t remember too much about the movie, and thought I should see it again. What really stuck in my mind was Jiminy Cricket, and even more, the voice of Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket singing “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Bliss.

Three years later, I haven’t yet returned to the movie, nor read Brock’s translation of the Carlos Collodi story. But then ‘Pinocchio’ drew me back.

In her superb blog, the ‘Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac,’ Anita Silvey devoted an entry to the Robert Innocenti-illustrated edition of the book. The sample she provided of his work was too enticing to let ‘Pinocchio’ slip out of consciousness once more.

Innocenti delivers. Collodi’s story, of course, is far longer than would fit in a picture book. Innocenti lavishly supplies many, many more pictures than normally found in a chapter book, in large format and lush color. He places the action in a hyper-realistic small-town Italy full of magic and foreboding, in a not-too-distant past—photography’s there and motor scooters are on the horizon. It’s a magnificent book to look through.

As for Collodi’s tale…. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Disney homogenized the contents. ‘Pinocchio’ will surprise, though. That cute little cricket is a large all-too-real insect creepily crawling up a wall. The cricket does talk, and offers the wooden puppet, whose life ambition is to ‘eat, drink, sleep and amuse myself, and to lead a vagabond life from morning to night,’ some sound advice.

Don’t run away. Don’t rebel. Obey your parents. Go to school, or at least learn a trade. If not, ‘you’ll grow up to be a perfect donkey.’

Pinoccio grabs a mallet and smashes the cricket’s head. Innocenti unflinchingly depicts a line of goo running down the wall to the discarded weapon.

Definitely not Disney.

There are moral overtones to the tale, and as in the movie, goodness transforms the puppet into a boy. But the original Pinocchio never really seems quite ready to walk a straight and narrow path. You get the feeling he never really learns his lesson, and never will.

Indeed, you get the feeling that is not what the story is really about, and that Collodi enjoys observing the evil mischief of his protagonist.

A violent story that glosses over morality might be considered inappropriate as children’s literature. I’ll leave that up to you, and any little devils looking for something with a little jolt. Fairy tale land can be unsettling. And thrilling. Ask the Grimms.

Highly recommended for unsqueamish fourth graders on up.
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