Outside in World | Browse Books
Use our Book Finder to search for books by Title (or part of the title), Author, ISBN, Age Range, Keyword, or Continent/Country. Then simply click the magnifying glass to start your search.
‘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)
by Christine Nostlinger
Age Range: 9-11
Stacey is scared of everything – of dogs, of the dark and of being in the house alone, unlike her rather plump friend Tina, who is completely fearless. Tina wears a pendant around her neck – “it’s my guardian angel” she tells Stacey who wishes she could have a guardian angel talisman too but knows her parents would never approve as they don’t believe in that sort of thing.
One day while in the middle of a fight with Tina they experience a strange presence. Rosa Riedel, or rather her ghost, has come to Stacey’s rescue. When finally Stacey meets Rosa, who calls her ‘ducky’, and claims she is the only working-class ghost in the whole of Europe, they begin to build a strong bond. Stacey spends a lot of time with Rosa in the attic which arouses the suspicion of her mother, especially when Rosa starts to lie and make excuses for not attending a friend’s party. After all, how could Stacey expect her sceptical parents to believe in a guardian ghost?
The story is set in Austria in 1978, although Rosa’s story goes back to 1938 when the Nazis came to power. While trying to help her employer, a Jewish watchmaker, who had been hauled out of his shop by Stormtroopers, Rosa crossed the road in front of a tram. “She reckoned that if a person's got something urgent to do as she had then if a person's furious as she was, then they can't die properly, because they're not at peace but a 'Resistant Ghost!” So ever since her ghost has been helping children who need her.
Austrian novelist Christine Nöslinger (1936-2018) is a master storyteller and she imbues her stories with such humour – the scenes when Stacey’s parents discover Rosa or when her Aunt Erica and Uncle Egon visit are hilarious. Rosa’s wonderful description of the other ghosts who she regards as too posh and ‘a nasty lot’ with not a single one that wasn’t a criminal when they were alive. Nöslinger contrasts this with a dose of realism and her insight into family life with Stacey’s squabbling parents and the stark historical element with Rosa’s experience of life under the Nazis.
“When our landlady said “Heil Hitler” to me, I was fit to burst with fury! … As for the way a lot of people talked about the Jews, saying they didn’t belong here because us Aryans was a superior race and ought not to mix with them, well, it was enough to take your breath away.” With an excellent translation by Anthea Bell (1936-2018), one of the UK's best and most prolific translators, it ensures that Nöstlinger’s humour and chatty narrative comes to the fore.
Perhaps today there would be more sensitivity in describing a character as ‘fat’: Tina is described as ‘round and fat’ wearing ‘high-necked clothes to cover all her rolls of fat’ and Rosa refers to herself as ‘a bit too fat’. Nevertheless, this does not detract in any way from a highly entertaining ghost story with its mix of humour and reality.
Nöslinger is the winner of the most prestigious international children’s literature prize, the Hans Andersen Medel, awarded to her in 1984. Other titles by Noslinger translated into English, many of which are on the website, are: The Cucumber King (1972), Marrying Off Mother (1978), Mr Bat’s Great Invention (1978), But Jasper Came Instead (1986), A Dog’s Life (1990), Elf in the Head (1992), Fly Away Home (2003), The Factory Made Boy (2012) also published as Conrad.