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Children's Bookshelf

December 07, 1986|KRISTIANA GREGORY

THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO by Carlo Collodi; translated and illustrated by Francis Wainwright (Henry Holt: $16.45; ages 6-11; 96 pp.). This classic tale is set in Italy's Tuscan village of Collodi, which was the hometown of the author's mother. Carlo Lorenzini changed his name to "Collodi" and in 1881 his "Pinocchio--Storia di un burrattino" was serialized in Giornale per i bambini (Tiny Tots Paper). It has now been published in nearly every language, but this irrepressible puppet is probably best remembered--at least by modern children--for his starring role in Disney's animation.

Poor Pinocchio! In this original version he is even more of a rascal than in Hollywood's film. He is insolent, naughty, exuberant, and no matter how hard he tries to behave, his longing for adventure gets him in trouble. He is strung up by thugs, thrown off a cliff, eaten by a shark and turned into a donkey. When the "Talking Cricket" advises that those who disobey their parents will never be happy, Pinocchio flattens him with a mallet before he has a chance to sing and dance like Jiminy. Geppetto here is a raspy old gent in a blond wig whose temper lands him in a hilarious scuffle.

Naturally this morality tale is aimed at keeping kids in line. The philosophy and scoldings are disguised within dialogue between consoling creatures. How can a child not listen to a "pretty little squirrel" who warns they'll turn into donkeys if they ditch school and don't read? "It's never too late for an education," the Fairy agrees. Whatever their nationality, youngsters will relate to this miscreant with the long wooden nose.

At every one of Pinocchio's misadventures a voice nudges him toward goodness: We should eat what's set before us, treat each other kindly and find something useful to do in this world. Above all, "Children who love and cherish their parents, and help them when they're sick and poor, deserve love and praise, even if they aren't perfect."

Wainwright, an Englishman, worked in Italy for a decade as a fresco painter. Doing a new Pinocchio in which all the illustrations would be done "on location" and none of the deep mischief purged from the text was a dream he cherished for years. Adults as well as children may rejoice to see it come true.

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