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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Tales Told by a Machine
by Gianni Rodari
Age Range: 9-11
Tales Told by a Machine is a collection of seven short stories by Gianni Rodari. There is the story of Grillo in ‘The Postman of Livorno’, who is so strong that he can carry heavy mailbags and goes so fast that ‘a telegram can get there the day before’. Grillo’s incredible strength allows him to lift a ship and to help with the building of the pyramids in Egypt during the World Weightlifting Championship!
‘Off with the Cats’ is the story of Signor Antonio, a retired stationmaster, who has a grandson and granddaughter who are far too busy and never interested in what he has to say, so he decides to go to become a cat instead! The story of 'Saving Venice or Being a Fish is Easy, is about a couple who hear about the danger of the city of Venice disappearing under water in a few years time so they decide to become fish in order to survive. ‘One for Each Month’ is a collection of twelve short stories, one for each month of the year. The other three stories in the collection are: ‘The Fisherman of Garibaldi Bridge’,‘A Tinned World’, ‘Piano Bill and the Mystery of the Scarecrows’. There is a tendency in translations to change the names of characters and of places as well as to anglicise them for a UK audience. This translation, despite being done in 1976, has kept faithful to its original Italian version and all the names of characters and places are as they are in the original language.
This collection of stories by Rodari is very Italian in its context as there are strong connections in some of the tales with Italian cities such as Rome, Livorno and Venice. The particular surreal humour of Rodari and the non-sense is consistent throughout the book and children (and adults) will certainly enjoy these engaging stories.