Saturday, July 5, 2014

Polish translation of popular children's book

Mr Miniscule and the Whale by Julian Tuwim, ill. Bohdan Butenko, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Book Island

Originally published in Polish, this whimsical story by a well-known Polish poet (1894-1953) has been superbly translated into English in this edition. The illustrator is also well-known in Poland, having done illustrations for more than 200 picture books. Amazingly, this translation has been achieved in rhyme - and well-scanned rhyme, to boot. It lilts and flows comfortably off the tongue.

Mr Miniscule (half the height of a coffee bean) goes to sea to find a whale. He lands on an island and prepares to pitch his tent - but you can imagine what the island suddenly turns out to be... The illustrations were copyrighted in 1956, so they have an old-fashioned air about them (in fact, the style may even be coming back into fashion!).  There is much use of empty space, black line sketching, and just two or three mainly muted colours per picture.

I believe children will be intrigued by the minimalist cartoon pictures and the easy-reading verse. It will work well as a read-aloud (to both small and large groups), and I can also see new readers attempting to read it to themselves. Librarians, beware the rather awkward size (199 x 300mm).

Julian Tuwim was one of Poland’s leading poets. He won fame not just for his adult verse but also for his rhymes for children, many of which are classics known to every Polish child. Nobody knows if he ever set out to sea to see a whale.

Bohdan Butenko is one of Poland’s top illustrators, whose drawings appear in more than 200 children’s books. He is also famous for his animated cartoons – especially featuring Gucio the clumsy hippo and Cezar the sensible dog – as well as for his stage sets and television design. He has won many prizes, among them the 2012 Order of the Smile – a special medal awarded by children to adults who are particularly kind to them.
ISBN 978 0 9876696 9 8 $19.99 Pb (also available in hardback)
Buy it here.

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