Book Review: Momo


Momo by Michael Ende is among the greatest children’s novels ever written. The central themes within its slight 236 page count are possibly more relevant in 2018 than when the book was first published in 1973.

It was upon the realization, that I’d just discovered this masterwork in storytelling, that I was eager to explore how others regarded it and where it sat historically.

The BBC made a list of the best children’s books of all time. It was curated by a transatlantic crew of writers and critics alike, yet the top 11 books they chose, caused controversy among a great many including a number of renown writers themselves.

Few could argue that E.B White’s Charlotte’s Web topping the list was a bad choice, it wasn’t; it was an interesting one. Rather, it was the absence on the list, of most everything published for kids after the 1960’s that gave it an overwhelming sense of oversight. It was the lack of anything published outside of the U.K and the U.S.A that struck me as short-sighted.

I’m a huge fan of the original Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, yet in 2017, the seminal duo-logy is a clunky curiosity of a read and it could be said that their value to the canon of children’s literature outweighs their narrative verve. It placed 4th, ahead of A.A Milne’s Tales from Pooh Corner which written only a decade later, had a writing voice that arguably better stands the test of time. A Wizard of Earthsea is likely the best YA book before YA was a thing, that too found a place on the list at 9.

Momo published in 1973 and written by German writer Michael Ende, is nowhere to be seen in this list and most lists like it, which begs the question, are these lists anglocentric? Favoring the British and American written books above all others. It certainly seems to be the case.

Germany has a rich history children’s storytelling, dating back to the Brothers Grimm and Michael Ende is its modern champion. Yet where he may have lacked the prolific oeuvre of contemporaries such as Roald Dahl, he made up for it in the sheer quality of his storytelling. Central to his opus is none other than The Neverending Story: considered by many to be a revelation and one which of course was adapted by Hollywood and became one of the dark fantasy children’s films that characterized 1980’s cinema (see also: E.T, The Goonies, Labyrinth, Flight of the Navigator, Stand by Me, and Explorers,).

Image result for momo michael ende

If The Neverending Story was his magnum opus, Momo was his tour de force and with its timely theme of how people spend their time, might bring it back into the limelight for a second wind. Typically glimpsed as a paperback with an unassuming and shoe-less girl in tattered over-sized clothes holding a tortoise on its cover. What lies within though is a fantasy masterwork with a villain that makes Voldemort and the death eaters seem like caricatures of an imagined evil. Momo doesn’t wield a wand yet her story brims with  magic. Momo’s power is her ability to listen to others on a level so profound that she helps them to transcend life’s everyday challenges. She is an absolutely endearing character.

No one knows from where Momo came, she simply turns up one day in a forgotten amphitheater on the outskirts of Rome. There she lives in a little room built into the amphitheater and there she is visited by all of the local folks who comprise the Rome’s lower class. These are people, much like Dahl’s Bucket family in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, who live from one day to the next and see only the bright side of life. Key among them are Momo’s two most endearing friends, Beppo Roadsweeper and Guido Guide whose surnames are telling of their vocation in life. Beppo sweeps the streets of Rome with pride and dedication yet cannot express himself in words well enough for others to have the patience to listen. That is except, for Momo. Meanwhile Guido Guide, who is as homeless as Momo, seduces tourists with his wildly flamboyant historical accounts of Rome and afterwards, collects coins in his beret. Guido’s tales grow and are helped by Momo’s encouragement which she delivers simply by listening so attentively, while Beppo, who could be imagined to be dyslexic or a stutterer, is able to express the pride he feels when he does a good job.

It is an idyllic era that the story is set though it could be imagined that the changes taking place in the 1970’s when it was written inspired the dramatic shift in the book and the arrival of the villains: The Men in Grey.

‘Time is life itself, and life resides in the human heart. The men in grey knew this better than anyone. Nobody knew the value of an hour or a minute or even of a single second, as well as they. They were experts on time just as leeches are experts on blood, and they acted accordingly.’

Operating in the shadows, the men in grey are omnipresent villains of genuine menace with no specific member ever taking the spotlight. There is no real leader but rather a nebulous bureaucracy, in which each of them have names such as Agent No. XYQ/384/b. There is an original idea here that can be seen echoed in cinematic trends such as The Matrix or The Adjustment Bureau but nowhere is it as compelling as it is here.

The men in grey are harvesting time and storing it in their time saving bank, but how? or why? The reader slowly comes to suspect that their might be more to the cigars that they smoke than first meets the eye. They manage to slowly overwhelm the city and its inhabitants yet there is a spanner in the works, a thorn in their side and that happens to be none other than Momo, the homeless girl who has all the time in the world for others. The battle between Momo and the men in grey is not merely a battle of wits, everything is at stake.

So much of what Ende does with the men in grey is remarkable: the reader can sense their nefarious plotting and handiwork even when it isn’t explicitly state. Ende manages to create the feeling that the men in grey are lurking in between the lines or in the blank areas on the sides of the pages, or even looking over the readers shoulder. It is a remarkable construction.

Bookforest Verdict

Momo is a staggering work of modern fantasy with an endearingly intrepid hero and a villainous entity as menacing as 1984’s Big Brother. The supporting characters have arcs that form the narratives dramatic ebb and flow in unique and intriguing ways. Character and plot are seamlessly interwoven. Professor Hora and Cassiopeia (the tortoise who can see half an hour into the future) take the story to fantastical heights that leave the reader exhilarated. In an era in which children are growing up addicted to apps on tablets and endless ways to kill time, Momo should have a second life as a profoundly timely parable, that is if anyone finds the time to read it, and that itself, will depend on whether the men in grey are real or not.


Ideas 5

Storytelling 5

Writing 5

Suspense 5

Intrigue 5

Magic 5


Total 30/30


T for Tortoise



Book Review: Snugglepuss

By Katherine Fahey


We need to talk about Snugglepuss.

And no, I’m not talking about the beloved zany pink cat of Hanna Barbara fame (That’s Snagglepuss). No, I’m talking about the enormous boxed grimalkin sock with sinister yellow eyes. The Snugglepuss that probably eats children and ‘juicy jumpy school teachers’.

Written in 1984 by Katherine Fahey, Snugglepuss is the story of a large red drape with a cat’s head and a ponies tail who is rediscovered after spending a long time in a cardboard box. He is soon taken to a class to meet the children and possibly eat them. Mary, a friend of the teacher Miss Cook, is somehow the person who finds Snugglepuss. She gives it to Miss Cook and says “Here’s your old Snugglepuss!”, yet Miss Cook, (pictured below sporting some dashing knitwear), appears terrified, as though years of therapy and sessions at the hypnotist’s just came crashing down like a house of cards.

Miss Cook’s trauma was unearthed like a dead body she’d buried in the woods and hoped no one would ever find, but Mary, being the apparently intrusive friend that she is, did just that.



Picture a cocktail party for children’s book characters. A right jolly fraternity with each of them basking in the glories of one another’s successful legacies. There’s The Hungry Little Caterpillar over there chortling merrily with none other than Fox in Socks. Oh and there’s Max from Where the Wild Things Are at the buffet with The Giving Tree. Where’s Wally? you ask, probably inebriated on a deck chair by the pool as per usual. As for Snugglepuss well, he’s nowhere to be seen, because of course, he’s not on the guest-list.

No, Snugglepuss is at a club downtown where a neon saxophone strobes above the doorway. You can hear police sirens wail amidst the hubbub of traffic from a distant overpass and hang on? was that gunfire?

Inside, sitting at the bar with a stiff drink is of course Snugglepuss.  On the small stage Joe, a boy from a 1920’s farming adventure book, hits the switch on the Farfisa and triggers a bossa nova beat before playing the standards. There were more people here earlier but of course Snugglepuss ate them. Beads of sweat run down Joe’s brow.

There are books lost in time. Forgotten books. Books that children don’t read anymore. Out of print books. Books with antiquated atmospheres and a view of childhood that though once pervasive, no longer is. There are even books about forgotten children’s books.

Image result for forgotten childrens books


How and why was Snugglepuss conceived of? Published in 1984,  I suspect it emerged from the same crackpot pocket dimension in that part of the 1970’s when most of the adults were high on something or other;  the era that gave us HR PufnStuf: your friend when things get rough, or the delightfully innuendo-filled episode of Rainbow.

It might be possible that the publisher who agreed to unleashing Snugglepuss upon the world, did so out of a pure will to entertain or to make money, though I doubt either such goal would have been as bang-on-the-mark as the goal of haunting the dreams of children for the rest of time.

If you’re not utterly shell-shocked from the cover and you make it to pages 4 and 5, then you will arrive at the point of no return. Here we see one of Snugglepuss’s yellow eyes peeking from the darkness of a cardboard box (Clearly he was put there for good reason, why take him out again?). Here we also learn that Snugglepuss likes to eat ‘juicy jumpy school teachers.’

But that’s just the beginning.

It’s when Snugglepuss meets the children that we begin to suspect he may want to in fact eat them. After all, he was a Snugglepuss without any insides. What better way for a terrifying cat-sock to fill its insides than with children.

Here we find the children feeding Snugglepuss stuffing, yet, is it just me or a some of the children from the previous page now missing?

But finally, we learn that Snugglepuss was hardly the monster we thought he was, and that in fact, it is the children who are the real monsters in this story.

I wont spoil the ending, but here’s hoping Snugglepuss eats those naughty boys.

Book Review: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

by Jessica Townsend


I was oblivious to the quietly brewing phenomenon that is Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor. And upon hearing the Harry Potter comparisons I became skeptical as there have now been so many of those post-Pottermania hopefuls : to the point that if I see ‘the next Harry Potter’ or ‘the best children’s book since Harry Potter’ on a dustjacket, then I immediately put it down.

Such statements are not only often unfair to the new writer being compared, but moreover, they’re ignorant to all of the fantastic books that have emerged since Rowling, and are more telling of a profit hungry publishing company than the celebration of a new writing talent.

Nonetheless, Nevermoor was given to me as a gift by my sister, and lucky it was as I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise.

The first chapter demands detective-work. We find our protagonist Morrigan Crow in a psychologist’s office with her father. We learn that the town Morrigan lives in, Jackalfax, is plagued by bad luck. We come to learn also that Morrigan who because she was born on a day called Eventide, is considered by the entire town to be the source of that bad luck. We learn that Morrigan’s father, a cold and ambitious politician has very little love for her and we find Morrigan herself coming to terms with her impending execution on the next Eventide.

The first chapter takes a little working out, though once through, the rest of the book flows like an enchanted babbling brook. The book jumps to a whole other level of fun when we’re introduced to the Nevermoorian mentor Jupiter North: a brilliantly constructed character who is part Dumbledore, part Willy Wonka, and yet something more charismatic and delightfully wicked than both of them. He whisks Morrigan away to the titular town of Nevermoor

With the film rights already snapped up by 20th Century Fox, it is hard not to do fantasy-casting of the Jupiter North role. It is precisely the kind of thing Johnny Depp could do if we weren’t already so tired of his oddball performances in children’s fare. Benedict Cumberbatch comes to mind or even James McAvoy whose eccentric potential seems untapped. Sadly, Heath Ledger, ultimately would have made the absolute perfect Jupiter North.

So with the Potter comparisons abound, why don’t we, just for the sake of it, go with it. If it weren’t a fair idea to do so then I wouldn’t normally, though as a first time author, Townsend holds her own on a number of fronts and, in my opinion, even goes one further.

Townsend’s Nevermore is an interesting creation, though it feels at times like shes thrown everything including the kitchen sink at it, and in that way it feels, at times, like an anything-goes jumble of ideas. There is a race for the flag scene that features unicorns, camels, horses, rhinoceroses and a giant talking cat. Townsend’s humourous prose makes it work but at the end of the day, the feeling that this world is thrown together in a slapdash way, can’t be avoided: even if in reality, the world wasn’t thrown together in a slapdash way (Townsend has been working on this book for more than 10 years).

Other bits that jar include awkward references to gods and an afterlife that are absolutely created yet religion isn’t fully discussed. This might be alright were it not for her ‘Hallowmas’ concept, which clearly combines two traditions from the real world (I won’t spoil which ones), yet does nothing to describe this day or tradition at all in terms of its actual purpose in Nevermoor.

Rowling has the edge on Townsend in verisimilitude: the small details that make up the wizarding world are imaginative, detailed, cohesive and plausible. There are times where Townsend achieves this, though at other times Nevermoor’s ideas do feel a little bit thrown together. Nonetheless, to be devils advocate to myself, that thrown-togetherness has a kind of wild and irreverent sense of excitement not seen in the work of fantasy purists, or canonical British fantasists like Rowling, Wynne Jones, or Cressida Cowell. Townsend has simply thrown the fantasy rulebook out the window. Whether or not this was a good move is yet to be known with Nevermoor set to be a series of six books.

Elsewhere, a few minor quibbles. I’m not at all a fan of the Australian in-jokes. Two of Nevermoor’s districts are called Farnham and Barnes, and though Australian readers might find it cute, (Do Australian tweens even get the references?) I think it shows another lack of dedication to her world-building. How can the reader get invested in the world of Nevermoor when some of its details feel at once trivial and empty. Written over ten years, there are no real excuses for these imaginatively empty city districts named after Australian baby boomer rock stars.

But now, lets talk about the things Townsend does better than Rowling. And yes, there’s quite a few of them.

Townsend’s prose, after the sometimes clunky and exposition-heavy first chapter, is fresh, resourceful, suspenseful, humorous, and alive. There are sometimes so many colourful and fresh ideas on a double page spread that you’re tempted to reread it just to make sure there were indeed so many. There were times where I thought, if Rowling could write as economically as this, some of the later Potters would have half the page-count.

Townsend is funny. Like really funny. Most of it comes via Jupiter North which is what makes him so delightful. There are puns galore and be warned, dad jokes too.

Elsewhere the tone shifts gears from the humorously bizarre to the downright terrifying with two ghastly villains each with an entirely different brand of villainy. The Hunt of Smoke and Shadow resembles a demonic aristocratic foxing party complete with shadowy hounds and smokey stallions. It is a haunting creation that you can almost hear galloping across the cobbles of your heart. The other one, I won’t spoil, but it’s even better.

With the story’s structure featuring three trials to gain residency in Nevermoor, the book has elements of the hero’s journey and most resembles Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Though the trials are swiftly told, it is the interesting stuff happening in between that build the sense of mystery.

BookForest Verdict

Jessica Townsend has created a charming fantasy yarn. In its DNA are the well known fantasy institutions: Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Studio Ghibli, and the work of Roald Dahl. But they are remixed in fresh and inventive ways and realized with Townsend’s clean prose, irreverent humour, and studied storytelling. A terrifying villain lends the whimsical story a great sense of depth. I look forward to the next book in the series and hope that she does away with the in-jokes and awkward real-world references, in favor of truly committing to her role as an compelling new fantasist.


Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Ideas 3

Storytelling 4

Writing 5

Suspense 4

Intrigue 3

Magic 3
Total 22/30

M for Magnificat



Book Review: The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear: a novel

by Walter Moers

On the cover of the English language version of Walter Moers bright yellow fantasy debut, The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear, there is a quote describing the German fantasist’s imagination as being ‘…like J.K Rowling on ecstacy.”

Sometimes quotes sell books, and possibly this one did. After all, Moers debut novel (let’s henceforth refer to it as ‘Captain Bluebear’), though markedly different to the Harry Potter series, was released in his native Germany, the very same year the term ‘Pottermania’ first became widespread.

No doubt that in 1999, the wind from Rowling’s wizarding world helped fill the sails of the ship that brought Moers into the international fantasy zeitgeist, as readers caught up in Pottermania were, between Rowling’s books and Lord of the Rings movies, looking for something else to tide them over.

It should be noted early on, that although Captain Bluebear appears in some ways, a book pitched at young readers, it isn’t quite. Perhaps in the same way that much of the subtext of Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels might fall flat on younger readers, so too might Moer’s tongue-in-cheek philosophical gags. This might be made further confusing as after the success of the book in Moer’s native Germany, Captain Bluebear himself, became a character in an animated children’s television movie.

Moer’s prose is clear with flourishes both pragmatic and erudite, though the magnitude of concepts therein render it quite exposition heavy at times. Imagine Tolkien’s obsessive detail applied to a narrative in an imaginary world that is for the most part downright bonkers, and you might get an idea. The narrative payoffs are a slow burn as you absorb Moer’s inexhaustible imaginative ideas, but when they do finally land, his wildly zany storytelling genius becomes apparent. There are laugh out loud moments here that rival Douglas Adams, Jack Handey, and Woody Allen’s Without Feathers.

So what are these 13½ lives all about? Well, the 13½ lives are in fact chapters in Captain Bluebear’s life. In the opening chapter, he is rescued at sea from the spiralling clutches of an enormous whirlpool by minipirates, who as it were, are precisely what they seem like: miniature pirates. Fortunately for all involved, Bluebear in his infancy, is also very small, so he can actually board their ship. They raise him, feed him, and give him a crash course in all things maritime yet he soon outgrows them and begins to sink their boat as a result, and thus he moves on to his next life.

Moers takes a basic, if offbeat premise, for each of the chapters and goes into a sort of frenzy in teasing out the oddest details, resulting in laugh out loud humour. A chapter in which Bluebear attempts to enter a mirage of a city by having four friends approach it from different sides at the same time was a standout chapter for myself.

Credit goes to John Brownjohn for his excellent work in translating Moer’s droll humour from the original German.

BookForest Verdict

The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear is in part, the literary equivalent to hot chocolate with marshmallows, and in part a testament to the generosity and scope of the imagination. The reading experience alone is like having your brain tickled and the deeper into the great yellow tome you get, the more intense it becomes. Moer’s orchestrates a blend of ideas that are at once, both eccentric and profound.  Embellished with the authors own quirky illustrations, this book is a treasure chest of fun and a genuine fantasy adventure.


The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers

Ideas 5

Storytelling 4

Writing 5

Suspense 3

Intrigue 5

Magic 5
Total 27/30

A for Alpine Imps————————————————–



Book Review : Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

by Robin Sloan

Image result for mr penumbra's 24 hour bookstore

Clay Jannon is slowly establishing himself as a savvy web designer in San Francisco, designing the website for a chain of cafes specialising in New York style bagels and good coffee on the West Coast. But then the recession kicks in. In the economic downturn, the Bagel Chain owners sell out, figuratively and literally, which leaves Clay out of work. In his search for economic stability, Clay serendipitously chances upon an odd book store run by an unusual man where strange happenings are a daily occurrence.

Every paragraph in this book is constructed with exhaustingly clever and witty prose. Sloan’s writing is accessible and intelligent but not in an elite literary way. it draws the reader in and plugs them directly into the narratives conduit. Does it electrify you? no, not really, but it has a light tone that contrasts with the presumably deep conspiratorial plot.

BookForest Verdict

Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is a funny, thought provoking, enjoyable, and utterly clever page turner The missing one star in my rating is due to the ending feeling a little too anti-climactic. Too pedestrian in its landing of the narrative and didn’t leave me wondering past the last page. Nonetheless, Robin Sloan is a ridiculously talented writer. His prose is fresh, modern, and original. I look forward to his future work and would love to see a film adaptation by the likes of Wes Anderson.


Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Ideas 4

Storytelling 4

Writing 5

Suspense 4

Intrigue 5

Magic 4
Total 26/30

T for Typography————————————————–


Book Review: The Fog Diver

By Joel Ross

Age Range 11-14

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A character-driven adventure novel that despite some highly original and thought provoking science fiction / steampunk concepts, prefers to lean more heavily on its relationship-drama beats.

The Fog Diver presents readers with a fairly realized world that is bound to be expanded upon in subsequent books. Despite only being lightly explored in this, the first book in the series, it is undoubtedly an excellent premise that writer Joel Ross has imagined.

The Fog Diver is set in the world as we know it, after being engulfed by a thick and deadly fog of nanites. The Nanites were ironically designed to rid the world of pollution but upon recognizing humans as the key source of pollution, evolved into a fog encoded to eradicate the human race. Now, the survivors live on the highest mountain peaks of the world above the fog in the last habitable places and travel in pneumatic airships. It’s all very steampunk at times, and is certainly among the best examples of the genre available for tween readers.

The protagonist, a boy Chess, is immune to the fog, enabling him to be a tetherboy; someone who dives from an airship through the fog to explore the human-less surface below. There, Chess scavenges for all manner of valuable items in the hope of finding something that could afford him and his crew passage off the slum-like lower slopes of the mountainside.

Chess’s ability is rare, almost unheard of and thus he is wanted by the villainous Lord Kodoc who wishes to use Chess to locate the Compass, a device which can purportedly control the nanites and allow its operator control over the fog and therefore the world.

Ross characterises the books tone and characters through their discovery and bewilderment of the strange artefacts Chess collects. They are everyday items that the reader will immediately recognise though that the central characters can only guess of their intended function. Additionally, Ross weaves in all sorts of misremembered history. Not only do these kids mistake Star Wars for myth but they go further and combine pop culture icons in hilarious ways that really entertain between the drama and tense suspense.

BookForest Verdict

The Fog Diver has an excellent premise, lots of humour and suspense that leads to a story in which almost each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, propelling the reader through its lean narrative. And therein is perhaps the books limitation; its fast pace puts a limit on the sense of discovery in this world. There are really three lean acts in The Fog Diver and it certainly leaves you wanting to come back for more. It is a book very much for its age group and I do hope the series gains a following. Though in a post Harry Potter world, it has neither the depth nor detail to let it stand out as anything other than another really good series for young adults in an increasingly talent-crowded market.


The Fog Diver by Joel Ross

Ideas 5

Storytelling 4

Writing 5

Suspense 4

Intrigue 3

Magic 3
Total 24/30

C for Clockwork Airships————————————————–


Book Review: The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily

by Dino Buzzati

Age Range 7 up

Written and illustrated by Dino Buzzati in 1945 and only translated to English as recently as 2003, The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily is a swiftly-told treasure box of a tale that should be more widely known. It tells the tale of a Bear-King Leander whose son is taken by men and the subsequent invasion he and the Bears orchestrate. While Leander’s motives throughout are a melancholic quest in finding his beloved son, the dramatic tension in the book arises as we learn of the motives other bears develop as they become accustomed to the luxuries of modern life.

Perhaps most surprising to many readers about the time and place of its publishing, 1945 and Italy respectively, is how contemporary most all of the moral views expressed are still now in 2016; this was after all a mere one year prior to the publishing of Tintin in the Congo, and almost a decade after Enid Blyton’s The Three Golliwogs, and three years after the final that particular long-running series (there were seven Blyton Golliwog books in total). Ultimately, this was a time where some writers for children were making near-disastrous moral choices in their stories, seemingly swept up in the pervading views of the time.

I came upon The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily in the same way perhaps many modern readers of the 2003 English translation did, and that is via Daniel Handler AKA Lemony Snicket who went on the record stating it as his favourite book of all time. Though Daniel Handler is a writer who I enjoy seeing in talks with Neil Gaiman, and his A Series of Unfortunate Events series are on my to-read list, I am in no ways an avid reader of his. It was merely upon reading his inspired account of the book that I took an interest, and that interest was bolstered after reading the opening section of the book in which Buzzati presents a summary of the books characters including such colourful premonitory portraits as:

The Bear Dandelion. Gifted with rare powers of observation, he can discover things which people more learned than he fail to recognise. One fine day he will become a kind of amateur detective. He is a worthy beast, and one can have complete confidence in him.

Or then this:

The Werewolf. A third monster (Marmoset the Cat and the Sea Serpent having been the first and second respectively). It is possible that he may not appear in our story. In fact, as far as we know he has never appeared anywhere, but one never knows. He might suddenly appear from one moment to the next, and then how foolish we should look for not having mentioned him. 

There are fourteen such portraits before the book commences, and it is but one of a number of conventions in this book that are entirely unconventional. Another being the incredible illustrations done by Buzzati himself; each with a caption that tells you what is about to happen, something, that in any other novel might have entirely frustrated me, yet here carries a whimsical storytelling charm. The book, in its very structure, reads as though listening to a storyteller.Praise should certainly go to Frances Lobb who did a stunning job on the translation, and I say this as a preface to the books most striking unconventional convention, namely the poems.

The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily alternates between narrative verse and poetry, and the results are stunning to behold.

The poetry does perhaps the opposite of what I might have predicted it would which would be to slow the story down. Instead whenever the poems kick in, the narrative changes gears and picks up pace. One such place where this technique, I thought had a terrific effect, was when the Bears invade the citadel of Sicily.

They light the long fuse and the great cannon roars
And swift as an arrow a gallant bear soars
And riding astride on the cannonballs back
Look as as much at his ease as if riding a hack
Now see the dreaded catapult, 
Another bear within the spoon. 
Will the brave creature get a jolt?
Will they not send him off too soon?
Like a great bird he cleaves the sky,
Then down the vaulted heaven he drops,
To land as cool as you or I
Among the fortress’ chimney tops.

BookForest Verdict

The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily is an antique delight with real heart and moments of genuine magic and adventure. There are universal politics in the subtext as relevant in 2016 as they were in 1945. Materialism, war, racism, colonialism are all discussed here with no holds barred. In its slim 143 page count, Buzzati delights his readers with an astonishing fantasy yarn with themes that resonate. This should be a classic and as a bedtime story, it would intrigue children.


The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati

Ideas 5

Storytelling 5

Writing 5

Suspense 3

Intrigue 4

Magic 5
Total 27/30

A for Anthropomorphic Bears