Dial ‘T’ for ‘tales’


Book review, from Tokyo – When operators worked the switchboards, and letters and telegrams made way for payphones, accountant and travelling salesman Signor Bianchi Varese calls home each night to tell his daughter a bedtime story over the duration of a single coin.

Doesn’t the idea alone fill your heart with warmth and love? Award-winning Gianni Rodari’s Telephone Tales (Enchanted Lion, 2020) certainly kept me company over the last week before bed.

Sometimes funny, sometimes serious. Other times amazing and wonderful. A country of butter men who travelled in fridges. Soldiers celebrating at the ring of cannons made from melted down of church bells. Elevators to space (and back). Magical carousels. While I half-admit to being a buttery citizen, I also marvelled at how living seven different lives at the same time could seem both absurd and true.

And then there were some that were just inspiring. Like the brave young crayfish who strode forward despite naysayers all around. And the road to nowhere that bore treasures only to the first one who dared to venture. Just a handful of pickings to open those doors to your dreams.

First published in Italian in 1962 as Favole al telefono., this edition published 100 years since Rodari’s birth combines Antony Shugaar’s playful, lively English with Valerio Vidali’s colourful, imaginative illustrations. The cover of the 1965 English translation bearing the same title reveals how times and styles have changed, while the allure of his stories certainly haven’t. Each told over just a few pages, I’m sure I will find the space and time to reread time and again.

Title: Telephone Tales by Gianni Rodari, illustrated by Valerio Vidali,
translated from Italian by Antony Shugaar
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books, 2020

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