Telephone Tales

Enchanted Lion. Sept. 2020. 212p. Tr $27.95. ISBN 9781592702848.
Gr 3-5–Accountant Mr. Bianchi promises his daughter that he will tell her a bedtime story every night. While he is traveling across Italy, he calls her at 9 p.m. on the nearest pay phone and tells her a short story. So begins a plethora of clever tales. There are a lot of stories to love in this Italian export. Rodari is a master storyteller; his imagination knows no bounds from runaway noses, buildings made of ice cream, magical carousels, and an elevator to the stars. Each story is thoughtful and well constructed as Rodari plays delightfully with different themes. In “The Country with the Un in the Front,” war is “immediately unwaged.” “The Young Crayfish” emphasizes being yourself, as the crayfish learns to walk forwards despite his family’s judgment, and readers learn the strength of truth against injustice in “Giacomo of Crystal.” The narration is distinctly Italian from the names of all the cities, characters, food, and expressions. Although there are some female characters, a majority of the entries center male characters, and strong female leadership is only really shown in “The Well at Cascina Piana,” where women from 11 warring families band together to help a male character and as a result, save their families. Almost every human is depicted in the accompanying illustrations as having a pink hue to their skin.
VERDICT Though not perfect, this could be used for storytelling and bedtime reading. For larger collections.

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