Week’s End Notes (24) – Once Upon a Time

 Once Upon a Time IX 

I’ve been in the midst of quite a reading/blogging slump lately. Part work (super-busy until about two weeks ago), part weather (just…winter…), part not quite finding the right book, part other distractions. I’ve only finished one book since January (The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper), but I recently started rereading Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and I think that’s going to be just the thing. I’ve been missing 19th century lit, and didn’t even know it.

There’s also been the persistent idea worrying away at the back of my brain that I want to read some fairy tales, or adaptations. Maybe some writing about fairy tales. Something, I’m not sure just quite what yet. And when I saw–and I confess, I had completely forgotten that it would be coming soon–that Carl is hosting yet another edition of his “Once Upon a Time” event, it seemed that I simply must poke my head back in here and participate. Carl’s events are always fun (the number 1 and 2 rules), they don’t require much–one book is participating–and with the arrival of spring–actually here on time this year!–it seems the timing just right.

Now…what to read?

Wrap-Up: The Classic Children’s Literature Event, 2015


I can’t believe it’s already the start of February! It seems I was just returning to work after a short holiday break, yet a month has passed already. I hope everyone who participated in the Classic Children’s Literature Event this year had as much fun as I did. Thanks to everyone’s posts, I learned about many new-to-me books, and the Pinocchio RAL participants’ posts gave me plenty to think about on top of my own reading of the classic story.

To finish out the month, I’m listing here all the posts I came across over the course of the month. I know some books were read but unblogged, and where I’m aware of them I’ve listed those as well. If I’ve somehow missed you, please let me know! I will update as well if posts are added in the coming week.


Akylina at The Literary Sisters:
The Cuckoo Clock

Carol at journey-and-destination:
The Winged Watchman
: A Life in the Woods

Cleo at Classical Carousel:
The Cabin Faced West
The Forgotten Daughter

Fleur at Fleur in Her World:
Linnets and ValeriansThe Young Pretenders

My Book Strings:
Pippi Longstocking

Plethora of Books:
The Book of Three
A Wrinkle in Time

amanda at Simpler Pastimes:
Over Sea, Under Stone
Treasure Island

Pinocchio RAL:

Amateur Reader (Tom) at Wuthering Expectations  Post 2

Cleo at Classical Carousel

Lory at Emerald City Book Review

Plethora of Books [pre-reading post]

Scott at Seraillon

amanda at Simpler Pastimes


Thanks again for joining in and Happy Reading!

Completed: The Adventures of Pinocchio

Cover: Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, NYRB ed., trans. Geoffrey BrockThe Adventures of Pinocchio
Carlo Collodi
(1881-1883, serialized; published 1883, Italy)
Translated Geoffrey Brock
Introduction by Umberto Eco
Afterward by Rebecca West

After walking half the day, they came to a city called Chumptrap. Entering the city, Pinocchio saw that the streets were full of mangy dogs yawning from hunger, fleeced sheep shivering from cold, hens with no combs or wattles begging for kernels of corn, large butterflies who could no longer fly because there had sold their beautiful wings, tailless peacocks who were ashamed to be seen, and pheasants who toddled quietly about, mourning their glittering gold-and-silver feathers, now lost forever.

From time to time there passed, through that throng of beggars and shamefaced poor, opulent carriages containing Foxes, or thieving Magpies, or nasty Birds of Prey.(Ch. 18)

This sight filled poor Pinocchio with such great and unexpected happiness that he was just a whit away from becoming delirious. He wanted to laugh, he wanted to cry, he wanted to say a mountain of things. But instead he whimpered confusedly and stammered out a few broken and incoherent words. Finally he managed to let loose a shout of joy, and, opening his arms wide and flinging them around the little old man’s neck, he began to yell, “Oh, my dear daddy! I’ve finally found you again!” (Ch. 35)

Had I actually put any thought into it at all, I would have realized that 1) January means snow (= much lengthier driving commutes = less reading time) and 2) I had two crazy-making work deadlines to end January and so I really should have started The Adventures of Pinocchio in December, so that I, the RAL host, wouldn’t be the last one to get a post written. (Eeking it out the last day of January!) Had I had any foresight I would have read The Adventures of Pinocchio last June, mulled it over for a while, and then reread it again for the RAL.

It was, in short, rather nothing like I expected. Different than Disney, yes, that goes without saying, but such a collection of the fantastic and bizarre and wild and religious and didactic and satiric (I think) and the cruel and dark and comic and heartwarming! I do not quite yet begin to know what I think.

Does it help me to know that Collodi originally ended the story at chapter 15, with Pinocchio’s death? Or that children’s literature as separate from adults’ was a relatively new form of writing in a relatively recently unified Italy? In the Afterward by Rebecca West, I learn that Collodi was “basically suspicious of any programs that codified conformity, seeing them as a threat to individuality and personal freedom.” No wonder we can’t make up our minds: is it a didactic book, teaching children obedience, or a subversive one, teaching them that rebellion might have a price but it’s a heck of a lot more fun? Maybe it is not children he is teaching, but rather their parents.

Then the allusions–it seems there are many. Religious, certainly. And West’s afterward points to Pinocchio‘s indebtedness to the great Italian literary tradition: Virgil and Boccaccio and Dante, and so on. I am not convinced I have read a children’s book. But I am not convinced that I haven’t. Maybe it goes over my head because I am not still a child. Maybe Collodi was still writing in an older tradition, one that didn’t separate the children and the adults.

But on the way he felt ill at ease–so ill at ease, in fact, that he took one step backward for every two steps forward. And all the while he was talking to himself: “How can I ever show my face to the good Fairy? What will she say when she sees me? Will she forgive me this second escapade? I bet she won’t forgive me! Oh, she certainly won’t forgive me! And it serves me right! Because I’m a rascal, always making promises to change my ways and never keeping them!” (Ch. 29)

Is Pinocchio fundamentally a religious text, reflecting humanity’s sinful nature in the image of a puppet who wants to do the right thing, who promises to do the right thing, but continually fails? Or is it a story of growing up, a bildungsroman? Is it neither? Amateur Reader (Tom), in his first post, posits that Pinocchio is “murdered” in the end. I am not entirely convinced that the puppet is alive at all in the final chapters of the story, or his friends for that matter. But I am perhaps reading that all wrong. Maybe it goes over my head because I am not still a child. I make it what it is not.

Many thanks to all those who joined me on this journey through The Adventures of Pinocchio. Not only the book, but your posts have given me plenty to think on.

The Adventures of Pinocchio RAL


It’s here, time for discussion of our thoughts on Carlo Collodi’s  The Adventures of Pinocchio! Leave links to your posts in the comments, or feel free to discuss below. My own post might be a bit delayed due to an unfortunate work deadline that has left me with very little reading time this week, but hopefully will be up sometime later this weekend.

If you’ve never read Pinocchio before (and were only familiar with the  Disney version, or another adaptation), was there anything that surprised you?

Completed: Treasure Island

First, a reminder to all participants in the Classic Children’s Literature event: don’t forget to link your posts up on the main page so we can all find them! Business over…

Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson
1883, Scotland
Treasure Island Title Page

More than any previous year, this January’s children’s classics reading have been for me about reading books I’ve long been meaning to get to. When I was browsing my shelves looking for the next thing, I came across “my” copy of Stevenson’s Treasure Island. It has been in the family a long time–perhaps as many as one hundred years–having passed from my great-uncle to his younger sister–my grandma, to my mom and now me (somehow–I’m actually not sure why it’s on my shelves and not my brother’s but I suspect linear feet available had something to do with it).

I don’t really know how well Treasure Island is generally known. It seems fairly. There was a Muppet version after all. But the actual book–I don’t know? I perhaps wonder this because even though I should know the story–I distinctly remember my mom reading it to my younger brother and I on our first beach vacation when we were quite little (third grade and kindergarten)–how little did I recall!

I was surprised at how much time Stevenson spends in England, setting up the story with the adventure of the obtaining of the treasure map. And it is proof right from the start that this is a true adventure novel–although so much time (the whole of Part I) is spent in England, the pages turn just as fast as during the later adventures on Treasure Island itself. I was also slightly surprised to find how little I remembered of the island-side adventures. They spent so much time on land! I didn’t remember that. Nor did I remember how much time Jim Hawkins, the primary narrator and the boy (I’m guessing early teens) who first obtains the treasure map from the chest of a dead seaman (pirate!) who stayed at his father’s inn, is away from his friends, the financier Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey.

But what really struck me most coming away from this is a sense of moral ambiguity to the novel. True enough, the pirates’ self-defeat thanks in no small part to copious quantities of rum could seemingly provide an example for the temperance society, and the failure of their dastardly plot could be a moral in and of itself. (Good guys win, bad guys lose.) But there’s the sly Long John Silver–surely the most memorable character of the lot–who not only moves amongst sides as the wind blows, but also manages his own survival at the end. His motivations are plain enough, but his outcome is not the stuff of children’s lessons. This is an adventure story, not a morality tale.

More interestingly to me though, is the storyline centered on Jim Hawkins. He is always on the side of the loyal crew, so there is no ambiguity there, but he is a reckless, impulsive boy. He abandons duty and his friends, not once but twice, and though he risks his life both times–and nearly dies twice on the second adventure–because his actions ultimately prove helpful to the safety of his friends he is not reprimanded but rather rises in their esteem. It is as if to say obedience is not as important as the ultimate outcome. In contrast, I am more accustomed to the story where disobedience (of a good or moral instruction, not of a bad instruction) leads to its own punishment, usually some tragic occurrence that might otherwise have been prevented had the child/youth done as they were told. Although I suppose it could be argued that some tragedy does result from Hawkins’s second departure, because it ultimately works for the benefit of the loyal crew, its effect is mitigated.

As an adventure it is quite fun–well paced, with twists and turns aplenty. It seems it would be a fun film. I should search out one of the adaptations–any recommendations?

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