Awfully Big Review had hoped to bring you a Guest Review today for World Book Day but, as they say, life happened. A real life Guest didn’t work out.
All is not lost.
Today I was out on a school visit, waiting in the hall. I ran my eyes over rows of bright books in the enormous wheelie book fair crates and silently mutteried to myself about the mysterious world bookselling.
I was stopped short by a moment of delight. For a second, I was unable to believe the title although I’d understood it totally. Immediately I wanted to shout about it and today’s Awfully Big Review seemed just the place.
So allow me to introduce our World Book Day Guest, THE SLEEKIT MR TOD, who was, in his earlier version, one of my favourite Dahl inventions.
I do have very mixed feelings about the writer Roald Dahl. He had some fantastic ideas and wrote some great stories. AHowever, although the author is no longer with us, a campaign of enthusiastic marketing means that his face and books are displayed around classrooms across the land.
It is almost as if Dahl has grown into a kind of BFG himself,. his legend overshadowing living children's authors and the current wealth of books, at least in many minds. His name is one of the few that all teachers know.
Bah! Away from such malignant thoughts and on to the glorious title.
The famous fox tale has been translated by James Robertson, writer, Salture Book Award winner, poet and the first Writer in Residence at the Scottish Parliament. Here’s an extract of Robertson’s version for you to enjoy:
Mr Tod sleeked up the dark tunnel tae the mooth o his hole. He pit his lang brawsoe face oot intae the nicht air and took a snifter. He jeeds himself an inch or twa forrit and stapped.
He took anither snifter. He wis ayewise gey cannie when he cam oot fae his hole.
He jeeds forrit a wee bittie mair. The front hauf of him wis noo oot in the open.
His black neb twigged and wiggle-waggled, snowkin and snifterin for the scent o danger. He fund nane, and he wis jist aboot tae pad forrit intae the widd when he heard – or thocht he heard – a peerie wee soond, a saft reeshle, as if a body had moved a fit, jist as lown as could be, through a rickle o dry leaves.
Mr Tod streeked himsel flat on the grund and lay gey still, his lugs cockit. He steyed where he wis a lang while, but he didna hear ony mair
“It’ll hae been a moose,” he telt himsel, “or some ither wee beastie.”
Doesn't it make your lips twitch? Don’t you just want to taste those words and savour that vocabulary by reading the lines aloud? Isn’t the language warmed with the history of the north?
This book is a belated find. This translation was published in 2008 but I’d never heard of the title or seen it around. Which may, alas, explain its presence in the big metal bookcases, way down in the most difficult-to-discover corner.
I shall enjoy reading it for myself by the fire, even though I am not sure how useful the sleekit's story would be for many young readers below the border. Or wa sit given free to all the school's in Scotland? Has anyone out there ever used it with children, anywhere? If so, do let me know!
Meanwhile, Happy World Book Day to you all - and to bold Mr Tod and his family safe in their “wee ablow-the-grund clachan.”
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