Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Back of the Book Blurb:
The old wood-carver Gepetto decides to make a wonderful puppet which can dance and turn somersaults, but by chance he chooses an unusual piece of wood – and the finished puppet can talk and misbehave like the liveliest child. But Pinocchio is brave and inquisitive as well as naughty, and after some hair-raising adventures, he earns his heart’s desire.
This is definitely not your Disney Pinocchio, and thank goodness for that, because it is a better and more complex story than Disney’s version. Interestingly, I did not know until reading Carlo Collodi’s book that Pinocchio did not come alive after he was created, but rather as Gepetto was creating him, and it was due to the wood he was carved from, not from Gepetto’s love (or whatever Disney attributed his “life” to). He was much worse than I knew him to be from the stories I read up to now. Sure, he lies, and his nose grows when he lies. But that is not the first negative character trait, nor the worse. He is selfish, self-centered, rude, shallow, irresponsible, gullible, inconsistent, and lazy. As a result, he constantly finds himself in trouble, and often in grave danger, such that he is nearly always at the mercy of a kind stranger to help him out of his jam, which they are often convinced to do because he showers them with promises that he will now be a better boy.
His only redeeming character trait is that he does seem to love Gepetto (his father), and feel genuine affection for different individuals he encounters throughout the book. I think it is this affection that drives his promises to be good, as he really does want someone to be proud of him. But because he is shallow and self-centered, he always forgets, and ends up right back in trouble again.
It is gratifying, though, to see him gradually come to a true understanding of what it takes to be “real,” and therein lies the best reason for teaching this book in school. It addresses virtuous behavior…honesty, kindness, helpfulness, good citizenship, wisdom, caring for others more than oneself…and showing that it is only when Pinocchio’s heart changes that he becomes a real boy. These are not shallow lessons, and it’s a fairly brilliant way to teach not only virtues, but to live by the golden rule.