If you think you know the story of Pinocchio because you've seen the Disney adaptation, think again. While the cartoon version captures the main theme, many of the book's nuances are lost.
Collodi's novel is a complex, deeply layered social critique. Disney's film is a simplistic, if heart warming, child's fantasy. In the book, Pinocchio is created from enchanted wood by a lonely woodcarver who, when he finds his creation can walk and talk, adopts him as his own son. Geppetto loves his boy unconditionally, even though he's made of wood. Pinocchio, on the other hand, is selfish and ungrateful, even when Geppetto gives up his own supper for him.
Far from the na´ve, innocent character to which fans of the film are accustomed, Pinocchio is irresponsible by choice. He is lazy and doesn't want to go to school, so when he's offered the easy way out, he takes it gladly. The plot carries Pinocchio through one adventure to another as he slowly realizes what it takes to be truly human -- compassion, humility, selflessness and, above all, love. Geppetto, meanwhile, loves Pinocchio in spite of his faults and gives up everything to search for his lost boy.
This is a tremendous read for all ages, but it would be a mistake to consider The Adventures of Pinocchio a children's book. Some of the sequences -- one where assassins try to kill Pinocchio by hanging him from a tree, and another where the puppet kills the cricket with a hammer in a fit of rage -- are too intense for really young children, especially those familiar with the cartoon. However, for older children, the book's strong themes and rich description are unforgettable.