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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)
Building Site (The)
by Hertha von Gebhardt
Age Range: 9-11
For many years a group of children have been playing on a piece of land in their neighbourhood belonging to the council. On the site, there is a newspaper kios which has been there for a long time and is owned by Mr Clarke, whom the children affectionately call Nobby. Now a new building development of retirement houses is planned by the local council.
The children decide that they are going to boycot the project by coming up with ingenious ideas of ways to cause disruption. The day the work starts one of the children regularly blows a whistle on so that the builders get confused about the timing of their lunch and tea break which causes havoc and gets them into trouble with the site manager. Things get worse when their friend Nobby appears to be getting friendly with the builders. Is he being a traitor to the cause? However, when the houses are finally completed and the elderly residents move in making the acquaintance of the children, things turn out to be different from what they had originally thought.
Here is another charming story from German author Hertha von Gebhardt (1896-1978). By using a simple formula and giving the characters their own idiosyncratic attributes, the story becomes a real winner. The children need to make decisions and also work together as a group to achieve their objectives and this free-spirited life without too much adult supervision is the main appeal. The translation from the German original language to English has been masterfully accomplished by Oliver Coburn and Ursula Lehrburger and the illustrations by Helen Burn perfectly match the youthful spirit of the book.
Von Gebhardt was a prolific German author with many of her titles being translated into English in the 1950s and 60s including: The Girl from Nowhere (1958), Love from Nicky (1960), The River Post (1961), Ruth’s New Friend (1963) and The Boy in the Glasses (1967)