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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)
Grateful Sparrow (The)
by Angela Thirkell
Age Range: 9-11
The Grateful Sparrow is a collection of children's tales translated from German into English by Angela Thirkell, an English/Australian novelist and charmingly illustrated with 24 colour plates by Ludwig Richter. The stories are a selection of folk tales and fairy tales by several lesser-known German authors.
The first story is The Little Sparrow about a poor woodcutter, his wife and daughter Marlene who live at the edge of the forest. When the parents go off to work a beggar girl asks Marlene for something to eat and she gives her some bread. On a cold winter night, a sparrow lands on the window sill and Marlene gives him some warm soup. She has heeded her parents teaching of being kind and doing good deeds whenever possible. Her altruism will eventually pay off in her hour of need.
Christmas Brings Joy is about a father who must go to war leaving his wife and children in dire straits and having to find work to be able to live. The mother works on the farm and her son makes wooden toys to sell. Until Christmas day arrives with good news for the family.
A Sad Story tells the tale of a young man who doesn't want to marry and plans to be by himself for the rest of his life. That is, until he meets a lovely maiden and falls in love. But as the title indicates there is a sad ending to this story.
A Day in the Country is a jollier story about a grandfather, two daughters and grandchildren going out for a day in the country. They take food, play, sing and enjoy the fresh air. They also meet some neighbours of whom Grandfather is not so keen to spend time with.
The final story is The Four Seasons, a light-hearted account of events that happen during the summer, spring, autumn and winter. Each season tells a different tale – in autumn the family gather by the fire to eat sausages but six little gnomes steal the food!
All the stories have strong German roots, with references to local food and drink, wooden toy makers, local customs and also a slight touch of an educational, religious and moralistic message. A Wonderful collection with a strong distinctive European flavour.