Gianni Rodari, one of the world’s best-loved children’s writers, is virtually unknown in the United States. I discovered Gianni (pronounced Johnny) Rodari on my first trip to Italy and immediately fell in love with his Italian children’s stories, and finding them unavailable in English, began to translate them. I’ve told some of these modern fairy tales before mixed audiences of parents and children at storytelling festivals, Barnes & Noble bookstores, The Cornelia Street Café, Puffin Cultural Forum, and other venues in New York and New Jersey.
Some representative stories:
The Mouse from the Comics
I enjoy being a Rodari storyteller because of stories like this one. A comic-strip mouse who always wanted to know what real cheese, not drawings of cheese, tastes like, enters the real world where he meets a comic- strip cat who always wanted to know what real mice taste like, with enchanting, not horrifying, results.
Tonino the Invisible
A little boy picked on by his teacher because he stays up late reading and always comes to school sleepy, longs to become invisible like the hero of his favorite science fiction book, The Invisible Man. But when his wish comes true–and even his mother, father and grandmother can’t see him–he discovers invisibility isn’t all he’d hoped for. Only an elderly man Tonino has never noticed can see him, and make him visible again. I’ve been a New Jersey storyteller for more than 15 years and still love to tell this Italian fairytale.
Giacomo di Cristallo (James the Crystal Boy)
This Italian story introduces us to Giacomo who is born with a body made of crystal, not flesh, and anyone can read his thoughts, which include contempt for a tyrant who seizes the land. Although this gets him thrown into prison, his thoughts glow and give hope and courage to the terrified citizens. Gianni Rodari’s images and ideas makes this a delightful, and powerful, story to tell.
The Little Mermaid
…is rescued from the net of a poor Sicilian fisherman, who brings her home to his wife and five sons, who always longed for a sister, and she enchants the entire village by telling stories she heard when she lived in the sea. I’m a New Jersey Storyteller telling an Italian fairytale about a Mermaid storyteller.
Teresin, the Girl Who Wouldn’t Grow
Tiny Teresa doesn’t understand why her father is killed in war. She rejects assurances that “when you grow bigger you’ll understand,” and vows to remain tiny because she doesn’t want to understand. But when a brigante terrorizes her village, she breaks that vow and turns into a giant to seize the brigante and free the village. This is one of many Gianni Rodari Stories that are loved by children and adults around the world.
La Stella Gatto (The Cat Star)
A cat-cat and a cat who was once a retired schoolteacher organize a march through the streets of Rome protesting the lack of a Cat Star in the heavens when dogs, goats, bulls, scorpions and other creatures have their own constellations. And the Romans march with them!
And many others.
Bernie also created the CD, Seven Stories of Gianni Rodari, about which School Library Journal commented:
“Libster makes each character unique with his deep, velvety, expressive voice. These whimsical tales can be enjoyed by the entire family.”
To learn more about the fascinating life of Gianni Rodari and hear Bernie tell three of Rodari’s enchanting, sometimes heart-rending stories, click here.
The Bonsai Bear
Written by Bernie Libster
Illustrated by Aries Cheung
Winner of the 2000 Visionary Award by the Coalition of Visionary Retailers.
When a Japanese bonsai master is given a rescued bear cub that would be illegal to keep but whose natural growth makes him impossible to conceal, he finds a way to use his bonsai techniques to keep the cub small forever. But the god of bears has different ideas. “A touching story that teaches the importance of giving loved ones the freedom to be themselves. My children love this book.” –Jack Canfield, co-author, Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul and many other Chicken Soup books
Both the CD and the book are available directly from Bernie. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org Bernie Libster is a New Jersey storyteller and performer available for children, family, and adult performances.