Sunday, 20 May 2012

S is for (Andreas) Steinhöfel...

... a multi-award winning German author and translator. His books Dirk und Ich (My Brother and I) and The Centre of My World have also been translated into English, but the most widely available is The Pasta Detectives, published in 2010 by The Chicken House and translated from the German by Chantal Wright, one of my MA colleagues. It also features new illustrations by Steve Wells. The US edition (2011) is published under the title The Spaghetti Detectives and seems not to be illustrated.

The Pasta Detectives, pub. The Chicken House, 2010The Spaghetti Detectives, US edition, Chicken House, 2011

It's the story of Rico, aged 11 and a "child proddity"
-  "That's a bit like being a child prodigy, but also like the opposite. I think an awful lot, but I need a lot of time to figure things out." - 
who lives in Berlin with his mum. He has trouble telling the difference between left and right, and gets all kinds of things mixed up, yet he also notices a lot that other people don't see. He becomes friends with Oscar, who is a child prodigy but also prone to anxiety. Together they manage to solve the mystery of what exactly is going on in Rico's building, the "Aldi Kidnapper" or "Mr 2000", and the significance of the "deeper shadows".

This is another book with lots of wordplay as Rico often misunderstands what he hears. He also has difficulty with spelling, so when his teacher encourages him to write a diary the results are interesting, to say the least. As well as managing these challenges adroitly, the translation really catches Rico's voice and his view of the world - his head swirls with ideas like the balls bouncing around in a lottery machine. Some of Rico's ideas are very funny, while others are genuinely thought-provoking. You can see why it was shortlisted for the 2011 Marsh Award for Children's Literature in Translation. The book also won the 2011 NASEN Inclusive Children's Book Award and, with a first person narrator who seems to be somewhere on the austistic spectrum, it has invited comparisons with Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

There are two more books featuring Rico and Oscar, so let's hope that they will soon also be available in translation so that English-speaking readers can find out what happens next.

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