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10 Translated Books - 2008


Under 5


The Three Robbers
Tomi Ungerer
Translated from German

A classic Tomi Ungerer tale, first published in 1962, about three fierce little criminals who wear large black capes and tall black hats. Armed with a blunderbuss, a pepper-blower, and an alarmingly huge red axe, the three hold up carriages and steal the passengers' cash and jewellery taking the loot back to their cave high up in the mountains. One night, they hold up a carriage containing an orphan girl named Tiffany, who is on her way to live with a ‘wicked aunt’ and who is only too happy to have been intercepted. The illustrations, with their creepy silhouette of black against a dark blue night sky produce an eerie quality. 




Dudley the Daydreamer
Anders Brundin, illustrated by Joanna Rubin Dranger
Translated from Swedish by Frank Perry
WingedChariot Press 

Despite doing nothing all day but daydreaming, Dudley feels overworked.  He dreams of himself climbing a hot pink Mount Everest or flying his rocket, the Dudley Armstrong Voyager that he invented himself which runs on blackcurrant juice.  As a result of his daydreaming he neglects his dull job as an assistant supervisor in the Civil Service. Finally, after 17 years his boss has had enough and Dudley is fired.  At first he is ecstatic because he will now be able to daydream as much as he likes without interruption.  A delightful tale by Swedish author Anders Brundin with colourful and fun illustrations by Joanna Rubin Dranger.


The Scribble Book
Hervé Tullet Translated from French
Tate Publishing

An activity book for young children from the master of innovative and wacky art books, French author and illustrator, Hervé Tullet.  With simple instructions it provides a lot of fun and imagination for those children (and adults) who love to scribble.  The humour is infectious and the tasks are fun.  ‘Can you finish scribbling for me please? or ‘Oh Dear!’ This scribble is very shy can you give him some friends?’   It’s all here in this zany book that will make children giggle and enjoy getting their pencils scribbling.




Duck, Death and the Tulip
Wolf Erlbruch
Translated from German by Catherine Chidgley Gecko Press

Duck is terrified when she realises that she is being stalked by an eerie skeletal figure in a checkered outfit.  Duck discovers Death has been close by for some time. As they begin to have philosophical conversations about the afterlife, Duck, reluctantly accepts the presence of Death in her life. They even become friendly and when Duck dies Death gently places her body in the river laying a black tulip on her as he sends her on her way. Although the figure of Death is scary, Erlbruch’s illustrations have a delicacy and humour that help the reader cope with the immensity of the subject, getting across in a matter-of–fact way that where there is life, death is inevitable.

My Village
Hansi Translated from French by C.J. Moore
Floris Books

The author and illustrator Hansi wrote My Village at the time when Alsace was under occupation by Germany following the Franco-Prussian War.   The vivid, colourful and meticulous illustrations give a fascinating depiction of life in the early part of the twentieth century of the Alsatian people. Hansi uses his skills as an illustrator to poke gentle fun at the German authorities whilst celebrating the people and places he loved so much.  His satire is always humorous and sharp-eyed readers will enjoy spotting the subtle references in his illustrations.  


The Island
Armin Greder
Translated from German
Allen & Unwin

One morning the people of an island find a strange man sitting on their beach who has been washed ashore on his raft. The inhabitants notice that he is different, ‘he isn’t like them’. After much discussion they finally agree to take him in. His new home is a goat pen and his food is left-over scraps.  The continued presence of the man begins to haunt the island inhabitants until finally they decide to take shocking drastic action. This award-winning picture book by Swiss author and illustrator Armin Greder has a visual narrative that is stark and sombre, evoking a mood of fear and distrust, capturing the violent hatred and prejudice of the islanders. A picture book for older readers and adults.




The Aspiring Poet’s Journal
Bernard Friot, illustrated by Hérve Tullet
Translated from French by Gita Dineshjoo
Abrams Books for Younger Readers

This is an ideal book to inspire the creation of poetry and unlock the poet inside every child.  There is certainly no shortage of ideas in this ‘year in poetry’ that covers a series of ingenious exercises with advice, suggestions and examples covering  rhythm, word choice, setting and style. There are also anecdotes, quotes and poems from well-known poets as well as plenty of encouragement. Hérve Tullet’s unmistakeable colourful illustrative style helps to make the creation process lively and fun.  An ideal book for the classroom.


Fish in the Sky
Fridrik Erlings
Translated from Icelandic by Fridrik Erlings Meadowside Children’s Books

Fish in the Sky by Icelandic author Fridrik Erlings is a powerful piece of literature that endeavours to explore the juxtaposition of teenage angst and sexual awakening.  Complex moral questions, full of literary symbolism, are posed by the teenage protagonist, with no simple solution ever offered.  It tackles serious themes, but always with an equal measure of compassion and humour.  This is an exceptional ‘coming of age’ book that will particularly appeal to teenage boys as it captures the difficult but exciting transition from childhood to adolescence. 




Message In a Bottle
Valérie Zenatti
Translated from French by Adriana Hunter Bloomsbury

Seventeen-year-old Tal Levine lives in Jerusalem, the daughter of liberal Jewish parents.  She desperately wants answers to the terrible suffering caused by the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.  After a suicide bomb attack on a local cafe that kills a young bride-to-be and her father, Tal decides to send a message in a bottle to Gaza. Her letter is found by twenty-year-old Naim, a Palestinian living in the Gaza strip and a remarkable email correspondence begins between these two young people. This is a thought-provoking novel from Valérie Zenatti, beautifully translated by Adriana Hunter, who weaves an historical account of the conflict effortlessly through Tal and Naim’s correspondence. 

Winter Song
Jean-Claude Mourlevat
Translated from French by Anthea Bell
Walker Books

When Helen discovers that her friend Milena has vanished she is at first horrified and then angry for the consequences will be severe in their prison-like boarding school where they have been for nearly fifteen years.  Controlled by numerous rules and ruthless teachers, another pupil will now be punished and sent to the dreaded ‘Sky’, a detention cell underneath the cellars where there is no natural light – so called, because it has a single strip of blue sky that has been painted on the beam to give those incarcerated there courage as they get a brief glimpse before the door closes – where they will remain until Milena returns. Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s novel is genuinely original and expertly translated by Anthea Bell.  A powerful story of courage and freedom, first published in 2008 and reissued in 2013. 




2008 Anniversary Book List Apr17




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