Every night, at nine o’clock, wherever he is, Mr. Bianchi, an accountant who often has to travel for work, calls his daughter and tells her a bedtime story. But since it's still the 20th century world of pay phones, each story has to be told in the time that a single coin will buy.
Reminiscent of Scheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights, Gianni Rodari’s Telephone Tales is composed of many stories––in fact, seventy short stories, with one for each phone call. Each story is set in a different place and a different time, with unconventional characters and a wonderful mix of reality and fantasy. One night, it’s a carousel so beloved by children that an old man finally sneaks on to understand why, and as he sails above the world, he does. Or, it’s a land filled with butter men, roads paved with chocolate, or a young shrimp who has the courage to do things in a different way from what he's supposed to do.
Awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Award in 1970, Gianni Rodari is widely considered to be Italy’s most important children’s author of the 20th century. Newly re-illustrated by Italian artist Valerio Vidali (The Forest), Telephone Tales entertains, while questioning and imagining other worlds.
"In bold shapes and bright colors, Vidali (The Forest) plays right along: his images read as an homage to Bruno Munari, who illustrated the first Italian edition in 1962...At every turn, Rodari remains emphatically on the side of the young, reminding readers that “the whole world already belongs to every child that comes into it.... They need only to roll up their sleeves, stretch out their hands, and take it for themselves.” Numerous gatefold spreads and tipped-in pages add to the rich texture of this beautifully produced volume." -STARRED REVIEW, Publishers' Weekly
"The book itself is a thing of beauty, with tantalizing, full-colour illustrations by Valerio Vidali over double-page, fold-out spreads. Antony Shugaar devises parallels to Rodari’s exuberantly inventive language and finds an equivalent to the rhythms of his prose. For readers of all ages, this book is like education on planet Blih, where, we are told, “knowledge is sold in bottles, in drinkable form. History is a red liquid that resembles Grenadine, geography is a minty green drink”, and the sheer delight of storytelling flows in abundance." -TLS
"Offbeat tales for readers in the mood for something whimsically contemplative." -Kirkus
"67 whimsically surreal tales, most as short as the time one coin allotted — first published together in Italian in 1962 and finally all brought together again in a new English translation — make up this treasure trove of a book...Valerio Vidali’s new illustrations, inspired by the act of doodling on a message pad, match Rodari’s radical playfulness. Vibrant and fanciful, they run the gamut from small inserted flaps of paper to brightly colored foldout drawings. Rodari’s upside-down fairy-tale world, in which the table of contents is at the back, features, among other delights, a stoplight that turns blue; a city bus full of passengers that on a lark heads off its route into a meadow; a country that boasts pencil unsharpeners, clothes unhangers and military uncannons (“good for unwaging war”); and an entirely edible planet that offers this for breakfast: “The alarm clock goes off, you wake up, you grab the alarm clock, and you gobble it down in two bites.” -The New York Times
"In honor of the centenary, this year, of Rodari’s birth, a small, enterprising publisher in Brooklyn, Enchanted Lion, has brought out the first full English-language edition of “Telephone Tales,” in a spirited translation by Antony Shugaar. Now, albeit decades late, Anglophone readers can find out why Italians love this writer.It would be hard for anyone, of any age, not to love the illustrations—mostly in Magic Marker—that Enchanted Lion commissioned for “Telephone Tales,” from the Italian artist Valerio Vidali. The book design itself harbors surprises. Some pages have extra little inner pages glued to them. Others are gatefold pages, where you pull the inner edge and another page folds out. In the drawings, you are shown entire worlds of semi-abstract figures: giant noses, a palace made of ice cream, birds eating cookies, plus, of course, kings and queens and a princess in a tower. The pages are sewn with stitches worthy of a Balenciaga gown. It is astonishing that the book costs only $27.95. Go buy one, right now." -The New Yorker