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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)
Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily (The)
by Dino Buzzati
Age Range: 9-11
Starving after a harsh winter, a group of bears descend from the mountains in search of food. The bear king, Leander, also has a personal score to settle. Many years earlier the humans had kidnapped his son Tony and he is determined to find out what happened to him. As the bears begin to appear in the valley the Grand Duke of Sicily starts a military campaign against them. Despite the bears’ bravery they are no match against the humans and they suffer huge losses. However, all is not lost. With the ingenuity of the bear Marzipan the bears are finally victorious. Having found his young son, King Leander now rules over Sicily with bears and humans peacefully coexisting in the city, but as the bears slowly lose their innocence and start to adopt human habits it soon becomes clear that victory has come at too great a price.
Written in 1945 by Italian author Dino Buzzati (1906-1972) Alma Books have produced a revised edition of the original English translation by Frances Lobb published in 1947. Buzzati was one of the most important voices of Italian literature in the twentieth century.
The text is broken up by the poems and clever asides together with a mix of humorous black and white and full colour illustrations by the author. There are twelve chapters including an introduction, a biographical list of characters, and setting the scene. Towards the end of the book there is a witty and helpful reader’s companion by Lemony Snicket that analyses the story, chapter by chapter. Each one includes a moral lesson, a list of ‘questions you may find interesting’, and a ‘suggested activity’.
The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily is a combination of political allegory and fantasy. It carries a substantial story that is rather theatrical in nature dealing with serious issues such as war and politics. Written in verse there is a moralising tone as well as a philosophical one to the narrative and it is believed that the story and its reception were heavily influenced by the Second World War that had just ended. Even though it was written over seventy years ago, the underlying message of the bears’ being corrupted by power and losing their true nature, the tale is still as relevant today as it was then.