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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)
When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town (The)
by Thorbjorn Egner
Age Range: 9-11
In the small peaceful town of Kardemomma lives wise old Tobias with his long white beard who provides the town with its weather forecast from his tower, Remo and his dog Bonnie, strict Aunt Sophia and her niece Camomilla and Constable Bastian, a cheerful policeman, who is so concerned with making sure everyone is happy he can’t bear to make any arrests.
In fact, the only people who stir up any trouble in Kardemomma are three robbers, Casper, Jasper and Jonathan who live outside the town and regularly go there to steal whatever they need. The robbers are lazy and don’t like cooking so they come up with a plan to kidnap Aunt Sophia while she is asleep and take her back home as a housekeeper. However, they get more than they bargained when Aunt Sophie wakes up and begins to boss them around instead! The robbers realise they’ve made a terrible mistake and try desperately to rid themselves of the troublesome woman. On another of their forays into town to steal some bread from the bakery they are arrested by Constable Bastian. When they are taken to prison they are treated like royalty but the robbers soon see the error of their ways eventually becoming good citizens of the town.
This hilarious novel, written and illustrated in 1955 by Norwegian playwright, songwriter and illustrator Thorbjørn Egner (1912-1990) is a joy to read. Packed with songs that the characters sing about their daily lives and lively vibrant colour illustrations which add a wonderful dimension.
Egner was known principally for his books, plays and musicals for children and When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town) (also published in English by Methuen as The Singing Town is considered as one of the most important Norwegian children’s books. The story has been adapted for radio, stage and film (1988). Some of the songs from the book and play were issued on the EP album in 1955 and 1975. It was awarded first prize by the Norwegian Ministry of Church and Education in 1955, as the best book of the year.