The Adventures of Pinocchio: Classics Challenge #3

This read was full of surprises, much more than the previous reads. I guess it shows how Disney embeds their versions in the collective memory and it stays there with little chance of changing. Pinocchio is perhaps one of the most famous cautionary tales but the story is much darker than I expected.

So, here are my top shockers (and plot spoilers by the way) of this absolutely wonderful story:

Geppetto is a nasty, nasty man. Yes, he is rude and violent to the point of getting involved in full blow fights. ‘…Geppetto lost his head with rage and threw himself upon the carpenter. Then and there they gave each other a sound thrashing.’ Please tell me I am not alone in remembering him as a sweet old man.

We all love the Taking Cricket didn’t we? Well, brace yourself for my jaw-dropping moment of the story. We know that Pinocchio is full of mischief, so the little Cricket decides to give him a bit of advise:

‘Woe to boys who refuse to obey their parents and run away from home! They will never be happy in this world, and when they are older they will be very sorry for it.’ (…) ‘Careful, ugly Cricket! If you make me angry you’ll be sorry!’ The Cricket tells him that he is already sorry for him because he is a marionette and that is much worse than having a wooden head. After hearing this ‘Pinocchio jumped in a fury, took a hammer from the bench, and threw it with all his strength at the Talking Cricket. (…) ‘cri-cri-cri’ the poor Cricket fell from the wall, dead! No remorse added to the scene.

Most famous fact of the story is that Pinocchio’s nose grows when he lies. I did not know this happens when the Fairy throws that spell on him: ‘…am laughing at your lies . ‘How do you know I’m lying?’ ‘Lies, my boy,
are known in a moment. There are two kinds of lies, lies with short legs and lies with long noses. Yours, just now, happen to have long noses.’
Parenting owe so much to this line!

The last revelation for me is the slightly disturbing Land of Toys. A place that promises children endless fun, no rules, no discipline and absolute freedom to do whatever they want. But this sinister place slowly transform the children into donkeys to be sold as well, slaves, really. Bit harsh.

Reading The Adventures of Pinnocchio was an unforgettable experience. I did not expect it to be so ‘grown up’ if that’s the right word. Pinnocchio has the behavior and attitude that every parent dreads: he is rude, lazy a liar, and he constantly runs away. His adventures take him to far away places and his actions have consequences for those who care for him. The marionette has to let down Geppeto, the Fairy and his friends in order to find the right path in life, and it makes a lot of sense to do it this way when thinking of a young reader.

It’s a great read and a cautionary tale that I cannot wait to read to my daughter, perhaps toning down the animal cruelty towards crickets.

To read more about the Classic’s Reading Challenge click here

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Classics Challenge #2

This is one of the perfect examples of the obvious classics that you’ve heard all about it: you recognize Alice and Cheshire Cat, you’ve seen the various films but you haven’t actually read the book. At least, I didn’t until now.

Lots have been said about Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece. It’s been the subject of endless literary studies but I will tell you one thing: it’s weird. Really, really weird.

The plot, as we know is simple. Alice and her sister are enjoying a day out when she spots white rabbit with a pocket watch. Curious, Alice follows him and falls down the rabbit hole and into a magical world where her adventures take place. She goes big, she goes small, she swims (and nearly drowns) in her tears, she finds tiny doors, she meets the craziest characters ever: the Mad Hatter, the Mock Turtle,The Queen of Hearts, the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, The Duchess and more. For me, the Duchess is the weirdest and most fascinating of them all. And I’ll tell you why.

Children’s literature has plenty of the pretty and beautiful. But what fascinated me about The Duchess is that she’s ugly. Brutally ugly. And on top of that mean to her child and it’s the owner of the world famous Cheshire Cat!

It is unusual to deal with the lack of looks so boldly to the point that Alice feels very uneasy around her because of her appearance. “Alice did not much like keeping so close to her: first, because the Duchess was VERY ugly; and secondly, because she was exactly the right height to rest her chin upon Alice’s shoulder…” 

The iconic images accompanying Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are those illustrated by Sir John Tenniel. Digging around a little bit, I found that, according to Martin Gardner, in The Annotated Alice, Tenniel’s drawing of The Duchess was inspired in the painting The Ugly Duchess (c. 1513) by the Flemish painter Quentin Massys. The unusual and slightly disturbing artwork is part of The National Gallery’s permanent collection. Look at it, it’s brutal. And the resemblance is spot on!

Through its pages I can see why children and adults keep going back to this story. It is the madness of it all, circumstances and characters, that makes it so incredibly appealing, fun and entertaining. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an epic celebration of the human imagination and if you haven’t read it, do it now, it will feel like a dream.

To find out more about my Classic’s reading challenge click here.

Obvious classics you’ve never read

Who doesn’t love a reading challenge? You may have chosen the traditional Goodreads one or the incredibly clever Pop Sugar Challenge. I think I have both on my radar but browsing on my Amazon Prime Reading I saw an interesting selection of classics. At first instance I thought why bother if I know these stories. But do I? This gave me the idea to spend the first few months of the year reading the obvious classics I’ve never read. Here is my list so far:

Alice in Wonderland Amazon Classics

The War of the Worlds – H.G Wells

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

The Adventures of Pinocchio – Carlo Collodi

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain

The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum

Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Julius Verne

The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

The Arabian Nights – Andrew Lang

I will write short reviews of each one of these titles, but if you think I’m missing a really obvious jewel, please get in touch and I’d be happy to add it to the reading list.

Till later!

Why I will not bother with this children’s book

Since starting my journey into parenting I have been absolutely fascinated by the impact that children’s authors and illustrators can have in little people. I think Julia Donaldson deserves a Damehood, a statue and a museum. I will start campaigning to make Axel Scheffler a national treasure (regardless of him being German, who cares!). Jon Klassen‘s books, simple and clever, never fail to make my daughter chuckle. Michael Brownlow’s Ten Little Pirates taught my girl to count and she now knows it by heart. I could go on forever telling you about how much I value children’s books in our life. Until, Mr Large is in Charge came home in a party pack.

MrLargeAs I read the book to my daughter something started bothering me. And I mean, really bothering me. The story line is the following: Mrs Large wakes up one morning feeling unwell and Mr Large tells her to go back to bed and rest as he will look after the children. In a nutshell, Mr Large is an utterly incompetent father to the point that Mrs Large never gets to rest. But that doesn’t matter because at the end they all snuggle in bed with mum.

I understand that the author Jill Murphy, wrote the first Large family book back in the late 1980s with the idea of portraying the chaos of family life. But please correct me if I am wrong, Mr Large is in Charge was first published in 2005 and this is why I have a problem with it. We are constantly bombed (and pressured) to raise children surrounded with positive role models, so why continue portraying fathers are as useless when it comes to domestic life? I found it incredibly unfair that in this day and age we can come across children’s books that reinforce the idea that ‘Dad can’t cook’ and ‘Dad can’t do the housework’.

There are many fathers out there who are perfectly capable to look after their kids without having mum around. My husband is one of them and he does the ‘job’ as well as me. He fixes our daughter’s toys, he does her hair in plaits, cooks great meals, takes her swimming and to hockey. We live in the age of shared parental leave, as well as household responsibilities, flexible working for both men and women, so how about portraying a Mr Large who in the end has a fantastic day out with his children and when he’s back home Mrs Large feels better?

If classics like Snow White are changing (no more kissing while asleep), I believe the Large family should do so as well. We owe it to the 21st century dads.