by Carlo Collodi
Puffin Classics, 1996, 262 pages
The first read-aloud I remember enjoying (because my teacher read it to us, her class, in school) is Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio. The hard-edged morality of the book is far better than in the Disney movie, as Pinocchio learns about the consequences of sin, rather than about “believing in yourself.”
The original story starts with a fight between two old men in an Italian town when a block of wood insults one of them and (of course) the offended party assumes that it is the other senior who has called him names. Two things about this opening show the difference between Collodi's and Disney's versions. In Collodi's version, ordinary people fight, because they are sinners like you and me. (Don't worry; they do reconcile - eventually.) Secondly, children are sinners, too. Pinocchio is conceived and born in sin; he is a brat even as a block of wood before he is formed into a puppet.
Collodi's version is not a story of a puppet who becomes a real boy by showing his true heroic character. Instead, it is a bildungsroman - a story of a rather wooden personality growing up by learning to see his own immaturity through suffering. The book of Proverbs tells us that the way of the transgressor is hard. For Pinocchio, it sure is. How much better, though, for kids and their parents not to have to learn that the wages of sin is death through personal experience, but instead by, for instance, seeing a foolish puppet get hanged (and rescued - there is grace in this story, too!).