Tag Archives: children’s fiction

Pinocchio Post-Pinocchio

Scott William CarterFairytales generally end the same way: happily ever after. But I’ve never been able to help but feel that it’s a bit of a stretch to ask me to actually believe that they do just sort of float through life happily ever after, so I love seeing follow-ups to, and riffs off of, some of the more popular traditional fairytales!

In Wooden Bones, Scott William Carter explores concerns I’d say were noticeably absent in the original Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi – why being a real boy is necessarily better than being a wooden puppet, for example*, or developing a concept of identity that is not dependent upon being a boy of flesh and bone – while still adhering more or less to the fairytale structure. Pino, the boy formerly known as Pinocchio (because Pinocchio is too long and cumbersome for everyday use, according to Gepetto), discovers that apart from just being a magical boy, in the sense that he became a real boy only with the aid of magic, he truly is a magical boy, in that unlike regular real boys, he has magical powers.

Of course, these magical powers only bring him trouble (as well as helping him get out of trouble by digging himself a bigger hole), but the trouble is what prompts him to come to the realization that it doesn’t matter whether he’s a real boy or a wooden puppet boy: he’s Pinocchio, and perhaps more importantly, Gepetto won’t love him any less for being one or the other. Continue reading

The Giving Tree

Shel SilversteinThis is pretty topical, given Mothers’ Day just passed, right? (On which note, happy belated Mothers’ Day!)

I read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree for the first time recently upon recommendation, and I’m still (a couple of weeks later) extremely conflicted regarding how I feel about it. Going by the comments on Bibliocommons, it seems like this is one of those books that people feel very strongly about, whether they love it or hate it – I would say this is one of the signs of a good book – and I’m no exception. I love it, because it is such a powerful book, and the story and the illustrations complement each other incredibly well to create a multilayered reading of the story. However you read it, it is still incredibly sad. But reading this for the first time as an adult, I can’t help but view it as being problematic in some ways. Shortly after I read the book and waffled over what my verdict was (I really, genuinely, love it while at the same time finding it troubling, in part precisely because it’s such a childhood favourite), an article on LitHub came up in my feeds, the author of the article being someone who loved the book in her childhood and recently reread it, only to view it now with distaste. So I’m glad I’m not the only one (though perhaps I shouldn’t be glad, because if it was, it could have just been me).

I’m pretty convinced that many children who have been read this book or who claim it is their favourite book probably have some inkling, in their heart of hearts, that there is something insidious about it, and that, viewed from the perspective of unconditional parental (read: maternal) love, the story barrels downhill, exacerbating the damage it does to your heart. That being said, I might just be ascribing a cynicism to readers that does not actually exist – it’s a… I’m not sure “touching” is the right word, but I’ll settle for calling it a touching story, and that might just be that. Anyway, I’ll do my best to outline why under the cut.

(I know it’s a childhood favourite of many, and I don’t want to rock too many boats*, but either way, I am exhorting everyone to either read The Giving Tree for the first time or reread it once more. We’ve got it in book format, kit format, as another kit (not sure what the difference between the kits is, exactly), as an e-book, in Korean, and in Hebrew. So there’s no reason to not pick one up, or to put yourself in line!) Continue reading

Duck, Death and the Tulip

Wolf ErlbruchFor a long time he watched her.

When she was lost to sight, he was almost a little moved.

“But that’s life,” thought Death.

Continue reading