Friday, July 31, 2009

The Grammar of Fantasy by Gianni Rodari

I expected this book to be a treatise on the fantasy genre. Happily, I was wrong.

The Grammar of Fantasy, lovingly translated by Jack Zipes, is a treatise on everything that goes into creating a perfect story and fostering imagination in children and adults alike. Meant primarily for teachers, this book is divided into over thirty exercises and lessons from dissecting folk tales, picking words at random, and changing much beloved fairy tales to the art of the puppeteer, limerick writer and comic book aficionado. The lessons are full of Rodari's charm; he withholds nothing about his opinion, and occasionally he spouts off a comment such as "enough has been said on this topic" leaving the reader chuckling. Also not to be missed in this book is the strong attention to generating laughter in children, and he even goes so far as to justify jokes and stories about such things as "poop".

Rodari's philosophy holds up with my original premise of continuing education. Whether continuing, or learning for the first time, he states, "The idea that the education of a mind must be a dismal affair is among the most difficult things to overcome". It reminds me of a NPR interview with a famous scientist who teaches science by throwing a bag of magnets into a room with children and seeing what they do with them instead of giving them textbook exercises. Laughter and creativity can be the only result.

The exercises in this book can be used with children if you're a teacher, a parent, or if you are an aspiring writer seeking to come up with new and fresh ideas for your next story. After all, what would have happened if Little Red Riding Hood didn't carry fresh baked goods to her grandmother, but ingredients for a time capsule, and she, her grandmother, and the wolf proceeded to travel around the universe.

But that's a story for a different time...

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