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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Adventures of Shola (The)
by Bernardo Atxaga
Age Range: 9-11
Shola is a feisty little dog with attitude; “Yes you’re always making mistakes” she says to her owner Senor Grogo, while “I, on the other hand, very rarely make mistakes, but that’s life”. Shola has big ideas and is out to prove that no adventure or challenge is too tough for her. Whether she is faced with the discovery that she might in fact be a lion, the prospect of going on a boar-hunt with her reluctant owner, helping a fellow canine who is plagued by a mouse or dealing with eccentric Aunt Clementine from America, Shola is determined to take charge and voice her opinions, which she frequently does!
The Adventures of Shola, a collection of four short stories – ‘Shola and the Lions’, Shola and the Boar-hunt’, ‘Shola and Angelino’ and ‘Shola and the Aunt from American’ were written by Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga. The stories were first translated from Euskera (Basque) into Spanish before being translated into English for the first time by Pushkin Press.
One of the most appealing things about these stories is the use of language, especially the sometimes old-fashioned or rarely used words like ‘deigned’ and ‘discombobulated’. The author cleverly ensures that Shola doesn’t always understand the words being used, often coming to a different conclusion or pretending that she understands perfectly when she doesn’t which results in some very funny consequences. This is an important part of the stories because it is Shola’s inability to understand the words and their meaning, (although she would never admit to this), that create the humour in the text, and the success of this is down to the translator, Margaret Jull Costa who has captured the nuances perfectly.
When Shola is interviewed for live television ‘In Shola and the Aunt from America’ the presenter describes her as a rare bird, a rara avis (a Latin phrase meaning a strange or unusual creature). Without the faintest idea of what this means Shola decides that it sounds good and from thereon describes herself as a ‘rarevich’; similarly, when the reporter exclaims that Shola must lead a rather ‘discombobulated life’ Shola happily agrees because she rather likes the sound of the word.
The charming comic-style pen and ink and watercolour illustrations by Basque artist, Mikel Valverde are so full of expression that they are sure to have children giggling at Shola’s antics.