Telling Stories Wrong by Gianni Rodari,  illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna

Telling Stories Wrong by Gianni Rodari,  illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna, translated by Antony Shugaar. Enchanted Lion, c1962, 2022. 9781592703609

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  Gianni Rodari, described as the father of modern Italian kid lit, gets a makeover here of one of his classic Telephone Tales. In this fractured version of Little Red Riding Hood, a grandpa mixes up all the particulars of the story, much to the delight of his squealing granddaughter.  She cheerfully corrects him as he riffs on Little Green Riding Hood, who is sent to her aunt’s house with a potato peel, but meets a giraffe, who quizzes her on math problems, and ends up taking a bus to get some bubble gum. At each stage, the little girl emotes expressively, throwing up her arms and imagining (with squishy thought bubbles) all the right and wrong things about the story, crouching on the floor while Grandpa tries to get back to his newspaper. For me, the fabulous illustrations were the real stars here, combined with gorgeous book design.  Alemagna uses Magic Markers (possibly on dampened paper), which mimic watercolor and their characteristic spread, but allow her to create her own blobby version of pointillism. The little girl and grandpa are both White; she rocks two long, red braids that swing about energetically, while he’s topped with a turban-like mound of bubbly gray hair, a giant walrus mustache, and big, round reading glasses on a prominent chain.  The large thick pages, with their buff color would make for really stand out viewing of the large goofy pictures, like Grandpa and the girl racing off on a large horse (we only see their behinds, including the girl’s underwear!) with the pesky newspaper pages conveniently blowing away.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  When Rodari first created these stories in the 1960s, silly re-tellings were rare; now he’s got lots of competition. I would be interested to see if fans of Interrupting Chicken or The Stinky Cheese Man would still find this book novel. It definitely has a Daniel and Jill Pinkwater vibe, both the voice (kooky) and the look (loose and colorful). I didn’t pick up on much local flavor, but the stories and author may be familiar to Italian-Americans.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: February 23, 2022

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