|Pinocchio's Dream by An Leysen (translated from the Dutch by the publisher).|
Clavis Publishing, 2015.
Back before Christmas, I saw a gorgeous new copy of The Nutcracker at my favorite bookstore. Unfortunately, I was on a bit of a spending freeze, in preparation for our trip to Washington, D.C., and my library did not have it. I did research it a bit, and found that the author/illustrator lived in Belgium, and that she had three books available in English, in the U.S.
My dad gave the girls a big stack of books for Christmas, and all three books by An Leysen made it into the stack!
I'll cover the others in due time, but today, I want to share our favorite with you: a re-telling of Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio.
Have you ever read the original? I have not, although I have read about it numerous times. The Disney version is rather nightmarish at times, but apparently it has nothing on the novel. I think I'm going to add the book to my to-read pile for 2016. [I'm off to a rough start on my reading this year, but it's still early, right?] I remember reading something by Maurice Sendak once, comparing the Disney and Collodi versions of the story. If you're interested, go read this Washington Post article from 1988. Sendak preferred the Disney, by the way.
This picture book, which is suitable for older school-age children - it's long and wordy, compared to the average picture book - is beautiful. Leysen's illustrations are gorgeous. The tale includes a few elements not found in Disney, although a few Disney-fications [the Terrible Dogfish is a whale, the Fairy with the Turquoise Hair is simply "The Blue Fairy"] remain. The biggest change is the ending, when all is revealed to be a modern little boy's dream.
Gepetto (spelled with one "p" in this version) is a lonely carpenter. One night, he decides to carve himself a marionette. He puts so much of himself into the creation of his little boy puppet, that it springs to life. He names him Pinocchio. Pinocchio begs to be free of strings, and to be allowed to attend school like a real boy. Gepetto relents, selling his only jacket to buy Pinocchio's school book. Alas, on his way to school he meets two hucksters, a cat and a fox.They swindle Pinocchio, sending him off to see a puppet show. The Harlequin puppet sees Pinocchio and calls out to him. The puppet master is furious at Pinocchio for ruining his show, until he realizes what an amazing object Pinocchio is.
The rest of the book is familiar if you've read or seen other versions. Pinocchio becomes a star puppet. The Blue Fairy comes to his rescue, but not before Pinocchio tells a lie or two. Pinocchio meets the cat and fox again, who convince him to bury his money under a tree, where they steal it. Pinocchio learns a bit about the value of work, then lies to the Blue Fairy again. He meets a man carrying children to "The Land of Must-Nothing and Can-Everything," which is fun until the boys turn into donkeys. Pinocchio grows a donkey's ears and tail, but runs away before more damage can be done. He falls into the cold ocean, losing his ears and tail. He is swallowed by a whale, and reunited with Gepetto in its belly. They manage to escape, bobbing in the water in Pinocchio's paper hat-turned-boat.
And suddenly, the story changes. It is morning. Pinocchio opens his eyes. He is a real boy. He runs down the stairs. We are in a modern kitchen. The father sits at the table with his coffee and newspaper, looking just like Gepetto. The mother has brown hair, but her face is that of the Blue Fairy. Surprise!
On the back endpaper you will find instructions for making a paper hat/boat.
We had such a magical time reading this book by candlelight one night that Mr. B felt the need to document it.
By the way, I could not find an official website for An Leysen, which made me sad. If you're a fan of Nicoletta Ceccoli, Benjamin Lacombe, or Rebecca Dautremer, you will love An Leysen, too.
I did find that her version of Baba Yaga(!!!!) is being published in the U.S. in September!
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