Hardcover, 200 pages
Expected publication: January 10th, 2017 by Pushkin Children’s Books
I believe this book has been read by practically every Dutch child since it was first published in 1971. Since no one ever bought it for me *glares at family members*, I had to get my Pluk fix from being read to from it at kindergarten and the early years of primary school. Of course, sitting in a classroom with roughly 25 other kids who were noisy and smelly didn’t make it the best kind of experience. Sooo, I had to make numerous visits to the library instead to be able to read it properly. Which wasn’t a punishment because, hey, books! I’m just saying it would’ve been better if I actually owned the freaking book myself …*glares again and goes off on a tantrum*
Basically, this book is all I’ve ever wanted! Apart from a baby brother, a dog, and a Playmobil pirate ship…oh, and basically everything from Polly Pocket, especially this tree house…
But er, yes, book review!! When I saw Pluk van de Petteflet had been translated into English, and an ARC was available at Edelweiss, damn rights I had to download it!
“Pluck has a little red tow truck. He drives it all over town looking for a place to live. Then Dolly the pigeon tells him that the tower of the Pill Building is empty. In the Pill Building, Pluck meets Mr. Penn and Zaza the cockroach.
Pluck makes lots more friends and solves all kinds of problems. But the biggest problem is Dove Grove. It used to be a garden with tall trees, but it has been neglected and gone wild. Grown-ups never go there, but the kids from the Pill Building love playing there. But now the Park Superintendent has decided to chop down the trees to make a paved square. Pluck and his friends try to save Dove Grove. But first, he has to rescue Longmount from the canal.“
The story and characters: can you believe most of it felt like it was new to me again? I forgot all about the Curlicoo, the Stampers, and the tell me where-wolf! The odd and funny characters really make the story. I mean, the protagonist is a completely independent 10-year-old (ish) boy who drives around in a tow-truck and lives in his own tower on the roof of a flat? Then you’ve got a lady with OCD who can’t stop cleaning…, a hippie who’s too intoxicated from whatever kind of drugs he’s on to have a coherent conversation with (this can only be a Dutch children’s book eh 😉 ), a pet cockroach named Zaza*, and a single guy with six children who happen to be the messiest family ever and live on a floor made out of mattresses. I could go on and on but that would take away some of the surprises of the story should you ever decide to read it yourself.
Each chapter is a little story in itself, either by introducing a new character or situation. All the chapters combined still form one bigger story, though.
The illustrations: I love Fiep Westendorp’s drawing style. It’s simple, yet incredibly fantastical. Real, yet surreal. Oh, what am I blabbering about, here are some more examples!
The Stamper family
Because I love these illustrations so much, there’s going to be something related to them in my giveaway tote bag this week, so keep an eye out for that if you think these look cool as well!
The translation: I was dreading this part because usually, a lot gets lost when it comes to translations. It’s a reason why I always try to read a book in its original language. With the emphasis on ‘try’. My Russian’s a bit rusty, for example.
I don’t know if it’s because I forgot so many of the original names or because it was done very well, but I don’t believe I have any true complaints in this department. I only thought the name Pill Building as a translation for Petteflet, which literally means a Hats Flat (or Crappy Flat, depending on your interpretation of it) was a bit strange but, other than that, I’ve got zilch to whine about.
This is a must-read children’s book, in my opinion. A timeless gem for all ages. You can read it to your children, but you can also just read it yourself (or to your dog, like I did). I know I’m incredibly biased here but I’m giving this book five brownies because I enjoyed it so much again, which isn’t always the case when trying to relive some childhood moments (Samurai Pizza Cats *cough*).
A big thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest opinion!
*When I was in primary school, a guy from the WWF came by one day to educate us about nature and shit. He brought a pet cockroach with him who was named Zaza, and the original idea was to let it live with all the children of my class for one week each. Unfortunately, it already died during its first week out when it was staying with a friend of mine. Lord knows what happened to that poor cockroach because I’m sure you all know that cockroaches can survive almost anything.
Annie M.G. Schmidt (1911-95) was regarded as the Queen of Dutch Children’s Literature and her books have been an essential part of every Dutch childhood for the last fifty years. She trained as a librarian but burst onto the literary scene when the newspaper she was working for discovered her gift for children’s verse. Having won numerous awards during her lifetime, including the1989 Hans Christian Andersen Award, Schmidt is now included in the Canon of Dutch History taught to all Dutch schoolchildren, alongside Spinoza, Anne Frank and Vincent van Gogh.
David Colmer has won several international awards for his translations of Dutch and Flemish novels, poetry and children’s books. He has translated much of Annie M.G. Schmidt’s work.