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Review: Findus Rules the Roost

Cover - Findus rules the Roost

Goodness, another review already! This time from the brilliant Zoe of Playing by the Book. This one also has linked activities (and we may just end up making some enormous flowers to decorate the office with). Thank you, Zoe! Please note that this is an extract – a link to the full review is posted at the foot of the article.

Have you ever ruled the roost, known the lay of the land, had everything humming along tickety-boo with a lovely bunch of great family or friends around you, only to have it all messed up by the arrival of an imposter? Perhaps you were an older child who had to deal with a newborn sibling suddenly taking all the sunshine? Or maybe someone unknown arrived in your classroom and all at once your best friend appeared to abandon you?

Findus Rules the Roost by Sven Nordqvist, translated by Nathan Large draws on these experiences, so recognisable to many, whether young or old, and lets us explore complicated feelings such as jealously, annoyance and a desire for revenge through laughter, mischief and gloriously absurd humour.

Findus, a very sweet pussycat admittedly fond of a prank or two, has lived for many years with the inventive, somewhat grumpy, and yet ultimately loveable old farmer Pettson. Theirs is an idyllic life on a small Swedish farm, where there are always ripe redcurrants to pick, bright white eggs to collect and a cosy corner to share. Despite his outward curmudgeonly appearance, Pettson’s heart couldn’t be bigger and one day he brings home a rooster, rather than see the bird end up in his neighbour’s stew.

This generous act has serious consequences.

Findus feels pushed aside, and to make things worse, the rooster really makes a racket, relishing in what roosters do best: crowing very, VERY loudly. (“‘What a fine sound,’ said Pettson. ‘I think we should call him Pavarotti after Pavarotti the opera singer.’ ‘I don’t think he should be called anything.’ said Findus sulkily.“)

Growing ever more exasperated by the rooster, Findus succumbs to fibbing in an attempt to – as he sees it – put Pavarotti back in his place. Initial relish at this stand against the new upstart doesn’t last long, and although there’s an ending filled with hope and kindness, not everything is resolved neatly with all made better as if nothing had ever gone wrong.

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Friendship – its ups and downs, its ins and outs, its joys and difficulties – is at the heart of all the Findus and Pettson books (Findus Rules the Roost is the tenth book in the Findus and Pettson series to be published by Hawthorn Press. You can find my reviews of several of the earlier titles here.) These stories are packed with fierce love (without it ever being sugar-coated) and utter hilarity, both in the telling of a good yarn, but especially and most delightfully in the deliriously detailed and imaginative illustrations, with little cameo gems in almost every direction you look. Look above, and spot the butterfly or below and take on board the hen pecking at the tray. Life is crazy and sometimes makes little sense, but love is everywhere and will always find you. Time and again, this is the message I take away from visiting with my favourite farmer and feline.

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The farm on which Findus and Pettson live is full of magic. Look closely and you’ll see little friendly goblin-like creatures going about their business, and everywhere there are exuberant, outsized flowers blooming with all the joy in the world.

Wanting to bring a bit of that cheerfulness into our home, we decided to turn our front garden into a homage to Pettson’s grandi-flora.

Follow this link to continue reading the review, which contains craft activities based on the book.

Buy the book here…

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Review: Findus Goes Fishing

Findus goes fishing

The wonderful Zoe Toft has not only written a review of Findus Goes Fishing, she has interviewed the translator! Reproduced with her kind permission, here is the review and an extract from the interview. Visit her website to read the whole thing.

Findus goes Fishing by Sven Nordqvist, translated by Nathan Large, is a book for anyone who’s ever got out of bed the wrong side and felt like nothing at all could improve their day, and also for all those who’ve spent time with someone they love who’s under a dark cloud. It’s a story of patience, love, empathy and one crazy cat.

It’s a gloomy autumn day and old farmer Pettson is down in the dumps. He doesn’t feel like doing any of the jobs he knows he needs to do. He’s blue and stuck in a funk. But his loyal and very dear friend, a kittenish cat called Findus is full of beans and just wants to play. Pettson is having none of it and snaps. “I AM IN A BAD MOOD AND I WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE!

How can you bring a little happiness back to someone who is feeling unhappy and depressed? What can you do to bring them a small ray of sunshine when all they have above their heads is a dark cloud? Findus may want to have some fun, but he also really wants to make his good friend feel better and so with a little bit of patience, a lot of thoughtfulness and – because Findus is a bit of a rascal – a dash of mischief, Findus cleverly finds a way to help Pettson back onto his feet.

It’s not sugar coated. It’s not all sweetness and light. There is grunting and gloom aplenty. But there’s also a cat with a very big heart who’s not afraid of persevering even when he’s told to scram. Findus helps us all to find a bit of loyalty and kindness in the face of rejection.

This hugely reassuring story is a relatively quiet affair (certainly by the madcap standards of earlier Findus and Pettson escapades), with muted illustrations in browns and greys perfectly matching the moody atmosphere. But Findus goes Fishing is far from downbeat. There are still many moments to spark giggles (all I’ll say is: Who hasn’t known a child who loves to rock chairs onto their back legs?), and the detailed, rich illustrations are a full of cameos worthy of a spotlight on their own.

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An excerpt from Findus Goes Fishing written and illustrated by Sven Nordqvist

I’m a strong contender for the UK’s No. 1 Findus and Pettson fan, such is my love for these characters and the stories Sven Nordqvist writes. Findus goes Fishing is yet another wonderfully enjoyable, funny-yet-not-afraid-of-being-serious story really all about that most important of things: love and how we share it.

To celebrate the publication next week of Findus goes Fishing I interviewed the book’s UK English translator, Nathan Large and started by asking him a little about his background and how he became a translator. “I come from Gloucestershire and live in Stockholm, the home town of my partner, Emilie. I started translating while working as a linguist on a project developing machine translation tools. At first this was for research reasons, to explore patterns that our software could use. But gradually the translating branched out and found a life of its own.

Having briefly worked as a translator myself many years ago I wondered what Nathan found particularly enjoyable about the work and his reply really resonated with me. “If you love language for its own sake, there’s always something to discover or enjoy in the work. If you are a curious person, translation also gives you the excuse to read about all sorts of subjects, making you among other things (un)popular at pub quizzes. Generally speaking, it is no bad thing to help people share their stories across languages.” I couldn’t agree more and this is certainly one of the reason’s I’m so grateful to translators, and publishing houses who seek out books in translation.

So how do the nuts and bolts of translation fit together for Nathan? Where does he begin? “It depends. Sven Nordqvist’s stories are pure fun. I read the book, then translate it the old-fashioned way, page by page. I check the draft against the original to see if I’ve missed anything, then put the Swedish to one side and focus on the English. Reading aloud is the best way to do this — the tongue trips over what the eye ignores.” This idea of reading aloud is really interesting – I’ve heard many authors use exactly the same technique, especially with picture book texts, and perhaps this shared approach is no surprise, as translators really are authors in disguise; translators, particularly literary translators, have to be great writers in their own language before sensitivity to a second language can come in to it.

(To read the entire interview, visit Zoe Toft’s Website Playing by the Book)

More about the book here…