Italo Calvino: Fairy Tales for the Young and Old

Italo Calvino’s works may be found in the “Adult Fiction” section of the library, but they are by no means hoity-toity pieces of literature that can only be understood by people with PhDs. His books are whimsical and fun, and have the same feel as classic fairy tales, only completely new ones he has created.

There’s The Baron in the Trees, which tells the story of a young boy who decides to live in the treetops after a fight with his parents and ends up never coming down. Or The Non-existent Knight, about a knight who’s actually nothing more than a rather cynical talking suit of armor. My personal favorite is If on a winter’s night a traveler, a more experimental work about two readers and their search to find a book which doesn’t suddenly cut off after the first chapter. Not only do you get the story of the two readers and their quest, you get the beginnings of ten very different novels connected only by arbitrary things like character names or location. It’s quite simply, fun. As far as I’m concerned, the idea of fun is simply a part of reading something by Italo Calvino.

Despite being considered “literature,” Calvino is very easy to read, and you’ll fly through any book of his and then be sad it’s over. He’s more than appropriate for any high schooler, and probably the more advanced middle school reader as well. Like Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, certain ideas will be more appreciated by older readers, but a younger one will love and enjoy it just because of the excellent story.

Tenth grade English class and a certain, terrible book called Like Water for Chocolate turns most teenagers off to the genre of magical realism because it is their first and only experience with that obscure type of book. Italo Calvino will make you love magical realism. He is the master at making the ridiculous seem plausible, at returning you to the fantastic dreams you had when you were a kid. I would recommend any of his books to anyone, so happy reading!

You can check out any of his numerous works here.


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