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Three Italian Folktales

adapted by Paula Fox & illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-531-05462-4
Publisher: Orchard

 A fine novelist passes along three stories told by Floriano Vecchi, born near Bologna (who heard them from his grandfather, b. 1850, who got them from his), explaining that these tales survive--with changes and additions in each generation--though Florian's village was destroyed in WW II. The stories--rich with folkloric themes, uncompromisingly unsentimental, and imbued with the kind of humor that makes the ironies of the human condition more endurable--are much enriched by Fox's wry, graceful retelling. In the title story, two angry men try to defraud their cheerful younger brother of the stony hilltop that's his meager patrimony; twice, Amzat tricks them harmlessly, but the third time his retribution is startlingly severe: he hoodwinks them into killing their wives and then themselves; an innocent bystander also perishes. ``Mezgalten'' is an intriguing variant of ``The Bremen Town Musicians,'' lively with dialogue and incident. In the third tale, two village outcasts (neither too bright: ``to Cucol a thought was...a beautiful cloud of meaning that he liked to study for a long time before he tried to make sense of it'') end up with their persecutors' wealth largely because of Cucol's amusing stupidity. McCully's frequent sepia drawings seem to have lost some delicacy in enlargement, but her caricatures complement Fox's wonderfully incisive depictions of human foibles. Not to be missed. (Folklore. 8-12)