10 Translated Books - 2005
Dear Grandma Bunny
Translated from Dutch by Patricia Crampton
Egmont Children’s Books
Dear Grandma Bunny introduces that most difficult subject of all: the death of a loved one. In this story Miffy joins in the grief, the ceremonial and the celebrations that commemorate Grandma Bunny herself and her contribution to the extended family. Dick Bruna’s illustrations perfectly catch the intensity of emotion experienced by young children, and the familiar rhymed translation provides a memorable text for listening to and joining in. Bruna does not shirk the physical aspects of death, and portrays Grandma Bunny, unusually still, but clearly peaceful. Excellent additions to the library of lovely little books about this universally loved character.*
Frog is Sad
Translated from Dutch
The Frog books by author/illustrator Max Velthuijs with their perceptive and beautiful illustrations have become contemporary classics and the delightful amphibian in his stripy shorts has acquired an international reputation. Frog can be many things – vulnerable, thoughtful, impulsive, wise, compassionate, frightened – and these books follow the lives of Frog and his friends Duck, Pig, Rat and Hare. In Frog is Sad, Frog is overcome by sadness but he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t feel like smiling, in fact he feels like crying and wants to be left alone. Rat tries to cheer him up by playing him some music on his violin but he only succeeds in making Frog cry! But at last, Frog starts to laugh and soon he has all his friends laughing with him.*
Translated from German
‘Nothing could ever hurt me’ Grandpa explains to his grandson when he goes to visit him in hospital. He tells his grandson about his life and how every morning as a boy, he would run past the big statue of an angel on his way to school, and no matter what happened, nothing could touch him – he was nearly run over by a bus, almost fell down a hole, was chased by scary geese and did many daring things – but he was never afraid. The angel is never specifically mentioned in the text but the illustrations show that it is never far from Grandpa’s side. A beautiful story, accompanied by gentle watercolour grey-green and ochre illustrations that make this a poignant and at times humorous picture book.*
The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My Tove Jansson
Translated by Sophie Hannah
Sort of Books
The Moomin books are contemporary classics of children’s literature and this sumptuous picture book version of Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson’s Moomin story is a total joy. Sophie Hannah's translation is witty and poetic and vividly brought to life by the glorious highly original illustrations full of vibrancy and colour. The sophisticated novelty design with its cut-through holes together with the rhyming narrative succeeds in bringing this tale alive.
Can You Whistle, Johanna?
Illustrated by Anna Höglund
Translated by Julia Marshall
As two boys play together, one talks about his grandfather. Ulf says his granddad is everything a grandfather should be. His rather wistful friend Berra reflects that it must be very nice to have a grandfather and the two boys agree it is high time they found him one. The next day, they visit a retirement home and identify the perfect candidate sitting alone in his room. ‘Grandpa Ned’ is surprised but very obliging when Ulf presents him with his new grandson. This is a memorable and thought-provoking book with a message that true friendship transcends age difference by award-winning author Ulf Stark.
The Wizard, the Ugly, and the Book of Shame
Translated from Spanish (Argentina)
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Leitmeritz is a wizard – with a carrot nose – who lives in a castle at the top of a high hill. He is the sole proprietor of the powerful Book of Spells that has been passed down from generation to generation. It contains all the mysteries and secrets of the entire world and with the help of this book Leitmeritz is able to fulfil everyone’s wishes, except that of his assistant, Chancery, who due to his physical appearance is named ‘The Ugly’. While the master is away Chancery succumbs to temptation and decides to attempt to use the book and find a spell that will make him handsome. Unfortunately things go terribly wrong and on his return Leitmeritz notices that the spells in the book no longer work and disaster is unavoidable. This humorous, fantasy story by Argentinian author/illustrator Pablo Bernasconi has all the elements of a modern classic.*
Translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, US
Twelve-year-old Kiyama, the narrator and his two friends, Kawabe and Yamashita have a mutual fascination with death triggered by the funeral of Yamashita’s grandmother. For them, death is the stuff of nightmare and ghosts, a fear of the unknown. They decide to spy on an old man who lives alone so that they can see what happens when he dies. As they are drawn into his life they learn a lot about life, tolerance and the dignity of getting old. Kazumi Yumoto approaches the frightening and fascinating ‘event’ of death in a vital and uninhibited way and Cathy Hirano’s excellent translation is both lyrical and casual.
The Last Black Cat
Translated from Greek by Sandy Zervas
Egmont Children’s Books
This is the story of a black cat that lives a peaceful and happy life on an island. He has only ever had to worry about stealing fish, hanging out with fellow cats and the love of his life, Graziella. One night however, he witnesses the kidnapping of a fellow cat. Suddenly, one by one all the black cats on the island begin mysteriously disappearing until there is only one black cat left. Eugene Trivizas has created a story that deals with discrimination as well as the power of illogical superstition seen from the perspective of a cat as the main protagonist. Although it can be grim reading at times, the vivid dialogue and good sense of humour that runs throughout make this an unusual novel.*
After years of merciless war between the kingdoms of Vinland and Moltovia, King Philip has gone to celebrate the signing of the peace treaty at the court of his former enemy, King Theodo. Twelve-year-old Prince Florin has been lured into joining his father, but what greets him is a macabre betrayal. His father and loyal advisors have been tricked and imprisoned in the squalid dungeons of Theodo’s castle. A different kind of humiliation awaits Florin, when he is apprenticed to Mimus, the enigmatic and unpredictable court jester. Living in a stable and half starved, he is forced to train to play the fool and perform in front of the King and his court. This is an excellent medieval adventure full of suspense enlivened by Mimus’ clever and witty repartee. Lilli Thal succeeds in accurately evoking life during the Middle Ages and John Brownjohn’s translation captures the atmosphere of the medieval court and the jester’s comedy perfectly. A multi-layered novel that deals with hatred and revenge, courage and friendship, humour and forgiveness.*
Translated from French by Polly McLean
Aurora Metro Press
Emma is a troubled sixteen-year-old who suffers from anorexia. She seeks attention by shoplifting and no one understands why she does it. Perhaps it is her parents’ indifference to her, the long family silences or the lies they tell each other. Emma is close to her grandmother, Mamouchka who is very frail and ill. After her grandmother’s death, Emma discovers an old notebook which turns out to be a diary. Emma’s world is turned upside down as she slowly begins to unravel disturbing secrets kept hidden for many years. A hard-hitting historical novel by Jean Molla who deals with an aspect of the Second World War that has received far less attention – that of a willing collaborator. A poignant, sometimes unbearable story that will hold your attention from the opening page and move you to tears.
2005 Anniversary Book List Jan17
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*reviews taken from Outside In: Children’s Books in Translation, Milet, 2005