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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)
by Annie M.G. Schmidt
Age Range: 6-8
Pluck drives his little red tow truck all over town as he searches for a place to live. Then Dolly the pigeon tells him that there is a room available right at the top of the tower in the Pill Building. Here Pluck meets Zaza the cockroach, Mr Penn, obsessive cleaning Mrs Brightner, her daughter Aggie, Mr Stamper and the little Stampers, Dizzy the squirrel who is afraid of heights and Carl the Seagull with a wooden leg.
Pluck is certainly a ‘plucky’ little hero as he helps to solve all kinds of problems including the rescuing of a very long horse called Longmount and a strange bird called a Curlicoo. However, the biggest problem is the destruction of Dovey Gardens. The Park Master has decided to clear the garden, cut down all the trees in order to turn it into a paved square.
This is witty storytelling at its very best. Tow-Truck Pluck is an off-beat classic from the Netherlands by Annie M.G. Schmidt (1911-95), who is regarded as the Queen of Dutch Children's Literature with her books now included in the Canon of Dutch History taught to all Dutch schoolchildren. With terrific characterisation and role reversal – infantilization of grown-ups with Pluck appearing as the sensible adult – is cleverly done.
There are some truly hilarious moments – grown-ups who abandon their work to play all day after eating the mysterious berries from the Hasselberry bush; particularly Mrs Brightner whose character transforms as a result of innocently making jam from the berries and eating rather too much of it! Behind the comedy though, there is also an underlying serious message of looking after your friends, whether human or animal, and saving the gardens and wildlife of Dovey Gardens.
Excellently translated by David Colmer, who has won several international awards for his translations of Dutch and Flemish novels, poetry and children's books and with comical captivating artwork by Finnish illustrator Fiep Westendorp (1916-2004), Tow-Truck Pluck is a timeless classic that is destined to become a firm favourite with young UK audiences (and adults too).