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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)
Real Sky-Blue (The)
by Bela Balazs
Age Range: 9-11
Frankie Cromer lives with his widowed mother who ekes out a living by taking in washing. Unfortunately, Frankie does not perform very well at school because all his free time is taken up with delivering the washing for his mother. Frankie wants to make friends with Charlie Oakes who is from a rich family and offers to paint him a picture if he lends him his expensive colouring collection of paints. Frankie starts working on his painting but manages to lose the colour Prussian blue which he needs to use for the sky in his landscape. By a stroke of luck, Frankie bumps into the school caretaker who is able to suggest he pick some blue flowers from the field and squeeze the juice out of them to use as paint. There’s just one problem: these small blue flowers only come out when the moon appears and bloom for just one minute.
Frankie returns home to work on his picture and realises that the sky he has just painted with the new sky-blue colour has darkened into a night sky full of twinkling stars. The discovery of this magical formula results in a series of misfortunes at school and takes Frankie some unexpected adventures too.
Gorgeous illustrations by Mary Shillabeer are enhanced by the introduction of the novelty elements such as Frankie’s picture with a moveable, rotating sky or the image of the teacher with a top hat that the children had painted on the inside with sky-blue that, when opened reveals a stormy sky.
Béla Balázs, born Herbert Béla Bauer (1884-1949), was a Hungarian film critic, aesthete, writer and poet of Jewish heritage. He had to flee Hungary in 1919 because of his involvement with the Communist Party. He then lived in Vienna and Germany. Before fleeing the Nazis in 1933 and returning to the Soviet Union, Balázs collaborated with the German film-maker Leni Riefenstahl and wrote the script for The Blue Light (1932).
The Real Sky-Blue written in 1925 is an unusual novel and was considered a political fairy tale this was followed by his most significant work for children Hans Urian Goes in Search of Bread (1927), a play which he wrote with Lisa Tetzner which was a fairy tale drama set in the Great Depression.