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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)
Absentminded Fellow (The)
by Samuil Marshak
Age Range: Under_5
The Absentminded fellow lives in Portobello Road. He’s a cheerful soul but extremely clumsy. On dressing in the morning, he puts his arms through his trouser legs, ties the laces of both his shoes together and mistakes the landlady’s angora cat for his hat. Once outdoors the pandemonium continues. Dashing out into the London streets he frantically hails a taxi and, after a lot of confusion and muddle, he arrives at the train station and tries to reserve a ticket from the flower shop instead of the ticket office. These are just a few of the uproarious, tangled situations that the Absentminded fellow manages to get into as he tries to take a trip from London to Birmingham.
This is a very entertaining picture book by Russian poet Samuil Marshak. The light-hearted verse has a rhythmic repetition with each double spread ending with “Oh, that absent-minded fellow from Portobello Road, and is similar in style to the nonsense verses by Edward Lear. Marshak was a poet and translator, (he translated Shakespeare’s sonnets into Russian), and was a prominent literary figure in his native Russia. He became influential in the movement that became known as the Leningrad School, founded the first publishing house for children's literature and the first children's theatre and children's magazines The Hedgehog and The Finch.
Richard Pevear has done a superb job with the translation and adapting it for an English audience and for using familiar British landmarks. He has also translated other Marshak titles including Hail to Mail and The Pup Grew Up! Special mention is deserved for the zany artwork by Marc Rosenthal, whose comic book style lends itself beautifully to the humorous tone of this hilarious story.
Other titles by Samuil Marshak listed on the website are:
The Circus (1971) – later incorporated into The Circus and Other Stories (2013), Good Manners and Pussies Mustn’t Fight (1974), The Rainbow Book (1974), Babies at the Zoo (1975), Mr Twister (1975), The Tale of a Hero Nobody Know (1981), The Month-Brothers: A Slavic Tale (1983) and Baggage (2013) – first published in English as The Pup Grew Up! (1989)