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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 Na Willa (The)
by Reda Gaudiamo
Age Range: 6-8
Na Willa is a feisty, bright and inquisitive girl whose home is in the middle of an alley surrounded by cypress trees in the suburbs of Surabaya, Indonesia. She spends time with her friends – Farida who lives opposite and Dul who loves running after trains. She enjoys going to the market with her mother, eating fried milkfish and trying to work out how people can sing through radios.
Based on Indonesian author Reda Gaudiamo’s memories of her childhood in the 1960s, The Adventures of Na Willa, translated by Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi Degoul and Kate Wakeling, is a delectable collection of stories about a multicultural girl growing up in Indonesia with an East Indonesian mother and a Chinese-Indonesian father. Na Willa narrates her daily adventures and musings never being afraid to ask the big questions.
Although there are many things that young readers will be able to relate to there are also some that reflect a different era where children spent their days outside, corporal punishment both at home and in school was acceptable and race and gender were not discussed, although there is a brief exchange between Na Willa and her friend Ida on her father’s Chinese origins.
A lovely humour pervades the stories but Gaudiamo is not afraid to deal with tougher subjects such as the tragic accident that befalls Dul which is dealt with in a sensitive way. Accompanied by charming comical pen and ink illustrations from Cecillia Hidayat, these tales are a wonderful window on another country and culture as well as being a rich addition to children’s translated fiction from a language that at Outside In World we have certainly not encountered before in the UK – hopefully the first of many!
Useful footnotes throughout provides a translation of many of the Indonesian words, while at the back of the book there are biographies of the author, illustrator and translators together with a section on ‘write your own stories’ containing helpful suggestions from the text.
Gaudiamo is a writer and well known singer and musician through the AriReda duo, whose poetry-inspired ballads have captivated audiences across Southeast Asia and Europe. She published her first children’s book: Na Willa (Aikon) in 2012. This was followed by Meps, Beps and Me (2016) – a collaboration with Soca Sobhita, her daughter, and Na Willa and the House in the Alley (2018).