It should be no surprise that I, a book reviewer/blogger, grew up in a house with plenty of books. We had a special children’s bookshelf, built by my grandfather, and on it I remember four very specific books. These were all hardcovers and quite old. They were Anderson’s Fairy Tales, The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, The War to End All Wars (a history of WWI), and Pinocchio.
Throughout my years growing up in that house, I would periodically read a fairy tale or two in either the Anderson or Grimm books, and I looked at the photos in the book about WWI, but Pinocchio both fascinated me and terrified me. This was years before I knew of the Disney animated film, but I didn’t need to see the dark terrors to get an uncomfortable feeling as I read the story. All the people around Pinocchio seemed cruel and the little puppet seemed always to fall into their clutches.
When I saw this new, annotated edition available as an ARC, I was quick to make the request. Was it as dark as I remembered? Would the annotations help me make a little more sense of the story? Does the book deserve its status as a classic? The answers are: yes, yes, and yes.
First, I would recommend reading this because if you think you know the book and/or the story because you have seen the Disney film, then please do yourself a favor and get the real story. We all know by now (or should know) that Disney can greatly simplify a story in order to make it more presentable and family-friendly.
This is not a story about lying vs telling the truth. It is noted in the annotations that Pinocchio’s nose does NOT grow longer every time he lies. It does so on occasion, but it’s almost as though author Carlo Collodi is making a comment on acceptable lies and ‘bad’ lies.
The heart of this story is that a wooden puppet wants to become a real boy but before he can do that, he needs to learn some empathy. But Pinocchio, like almost any little boy (or girl), knows what is right and what is wrong, but when faced with something that is ‘right’ versus something that sounds fun … it is much, much harder to choose ‘right.’ And when Pinocchio makes a bad decision there is always a repercussion (is ‘punishment’ meted out by fate/gods/nature).
I really appreciated the annotation in this volume (and greatly thank the publisher for a digital ARC that has notes that work). I learned a lot here. For someone like myself, who appreciates the classic nature of the book but is hardly a scholar, or even a Pinocchio fan, just learning that the book was initially a serial story was eye-opening and explained much about why the book seemed to be one short, dangerous adventure after another. It also explained why the focus changed some (Collodi had decided the book was done, but a clamoring for more of the story prompted him to write some more) and why there are some inconsistencies in the book (perhaps like the growing nose).
The story is still often quite dark, but then so were a lot of those fairy tales some of us grew up with.
I recommend reading (or re-reading) this book, but be sure to read the annotated edition. You won’t regret it.
Looking for a good book? The Adventures of Pinocchio: Annotated Classic Edition, by Carlo Collodi, is a children’s classic for good reason and if you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it in a while, it’s time to correct that.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Adventures of Pinocchio: Annotated Classic Edition
author: Carlo Collodi
translators: John Hooper and Anna Kraczyna
publisher: Penguin Classics
paperback, 224 pages