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The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily (Alma Children's Classics) (Alma Classics) Paperback – Illustrated, 16 Mar 2016
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'The Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily is one of the noblest books I know.' --Lemony Snicket
'Out of Italy, which gave the world Pinocchio, has come a new and fine children's story, the kind that grown-ups borrow from kids.' --Time
'This moving story... is one that children of nine-plus will remember enjoying long after they have finished reading. A bonus is a quirky readers companion.' --Newbury Weekly News
About the Author
The novelist, journalist and painter Dino Buzzati is one of the most important voices of twentieth-century Italian literature. He is best remembered today for his novel The Tartar Steppe and the story The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily, which he illustrated himself and has become a classic of Italian children's literature.
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On the other hand the book has a very nice story for slightly older children and is a slightly easier entry into the Animal Farm theme than Orwell's book - it also predates it by a year (1945 vs 1946). Instead of a farm animal emancipation and revolution, this portrays an invasion of bears (driven by hunger) into the living areas previously occupied by humans and subsequently the bears slowly going astray in a similar way. In some way one could draw parallels to the start and development of a dictatorial regime.
In terms of the writing, this is perhaps not Buzzati's most accomplished book - definitely not at the same level as The Tartar Steppe - but then again it is not meant for adults. The drawings, though, are quite interesting and a nice addition. In order for a full assessment one would probably need to read it in Italian, as it is hard to say, to what extent the poetry in the book translates well, compared to the slightly simpler job of doing justice to the prose.
When a harsh winter hits Sicily, the bears who live high up in the mountains venture down to the village below in an attempt to find food. However in doing so, they start a war with the army of the Grand Duke of Sicily.
But will the bears be happy once they have destroyed the village and the army?
The book opens up with a section of ‘who’s who’. To be honest I actually ignored this section at the start and moved on straight to the story, as I like to find out who is who when I meet them, so I used it like a glossary.
The plot is told as if you are gathered by the fire and someone is telling you the tale from the comfort of their rocking chair, about a large sleuth (apparently that’s the name for a group of bears – who knew!) of bears, being led by King Leander, who is quite an angry bear after losing his son Tony many years ago, in an attempt to keep his sleuth alive by finding food for them.
The story, although imaginative, I found quite hard-going and had to re-read sections to fully understand them, thus it actually took me quite a while to finish it the book.
I did like the illustrations throughout that depicted what the chapter in the story was about, with its little paragraph underneath explaining the picture too.
I also liked the readers companion at the back, written by Lemony Snicket. It does tell you on the front of the book about it having a readers companion, but I must of glossed over it, as it would of made reading the book a lot easier had I noticed it and had it for reference.
Within each chapter, Dino has added a small rhyming poem about the story. This was a novel idea, one that I liked.
The book is completely unique and was nothing like I had ever read before. Not an easy read, but it was an enjoyable one.
Reviewed by Stacey at Whispering Stories Book Blog
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