Image: Gunvor Rasmussen, detail, from Maria Parr, "Raur gir dyna si ein klem [Raur Gives His Blanket a Hug]," in Trøysteboka: Nynorske forteljingar (Skald, 2011). Courtesy of the publisher.
This month, with so many families home together and everyone craving comfort, we present an issue of international children’s literature. From ageless witches to teenage cliques, in settings ranging from Fascist Italy to the contemporary Middle East, the writers here offer characters and themes both fantastic and familiar. Pietro Albì’s village child is bedeviled by a surprising apparition. Sachiko Kashiwaba delivers a twist on a fairy tale trope. Hooda El Shuwa’s teenager finds a magical solution to a very real conflict, and Sandrine Kao sits in on lessons in combatting racism. Justyna Bednarek’s young boy marvels at his neighbor’s wonderful invention, while Angelika Glitz catches up with a granny who trades her walker for a forklift. And in a story reflecting what we’re all longing for now, Maria Parr’s preschooler reminds us of the restorative power of hugs. Children’s literature expert Daniel Hahn guest edits and introduces these stories for readers of all ages. Our series on the COVID-19 crisis, Voices from the Pandemic, continues this month with work from Mexico, Portugal, and Bulgaria.
Deceptive Simplicity: International Children’s Literature
I often feel that adults forget what children’s stories are capable of.
Raur Gives His Blanket a Hug
“How am I supposed to be nice when nobody’s nice to me?”
Firstclaw’s love spells were rumored to be unusually effective.
The Appearance of the Dragon, and His Disappearance
Khidr stepped out onto the street and was filled with an extraordinary horror.
The Park Bench
But it’s not surprising—with everything you hear on the news, how can anyone be expected to think well of the Chinese?
Heaven Can Wait
“Look, this forklift even has an electric motor.”
Mr. Gimbal’s Incredible Invention
The wooden ring looked antique, because, as Mr. Gimbal explained, it was a centuries-old stereoscopic theater.
Farfariel: The Book of Micù
“The Devil at your service!” it announced in perfect Italian.
Reviewed by Benjamin Woodard
Originally published in 2010, this funny, if faintly scattershot, novel relies on a Kafkaesque allegory to reconsider Romania’s late-1980s transition to democracy after decades of Communist rule.
Reviewed by Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild
A volume of interviews with survivors of the detention camps first created by Lenin in 1918 documents harrowing abuses against dissidents and minorities that extend to present-day Russia.