Helmut has a prized apple tree, laden with ripening fruit. Helmut also has nightmares: His neighbour, Igor, may at any time be plotting to steal all of Helmut’s much loved apples.
One day the juciest apple falls from Helmut’s tree… but onto the wrong side of the fence. Disaster appears to have struck. Igor has Helmut’s prized possession!
What is Igor going to do? How is Helmut going to respond?
For those wanting to unpick this quirky story there’s plenty packed into Odd Dog; the encumbrance of desire and possession, what it feels like to be different, the power of sharing, the acceptance of difference, and whether the world is full of threats or opportunities.
For those just wanting a fun read there’s a lot to enjoy in Odd Dog; the offbeat humour (what? a dog that doesn’t like bones?), the stylish, characterful illustrations, the reassuring reminder that the world is actually a good place, full of good people. The dogs, the classy illustrations, the anxiety all make this a great book to pair with Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton.
For those interested in translation and cultural differences, it’s fun to see that the names Helmut and Igor are “untranslated” in the German version of Claudia Boldt’s offbeat tale (do watch the video, even if you don’t understand German, for it will give you a good flavour of Claudia’s illustrations):
And yet, in the US version of this book, the dogs have been renamed: Helmut is Peanut and Igor is Milo.
With my British/European sensibilities, this “translation” doesn’t work for me; the names Peanut and Milo are just too sweet, and don’t have the same quirky, old-fashioned, absurd feel about them, that I think Helmut and Igor have, and which really adds that little bit of hard-to-put-your-finger-on-flavour to the tale. I’d love to know what my North American readers think about this… And I’d love to hear from German readers too – I suspect Helmut and Igor don’t have the same feel in German (where they are – I believe- far less unusual than here in the UK) as they do in English.
All this got me thinking about name changes in different English versions of the same book (rather than translations into other languages). Here are some other examples:
So what’s in a name? Is it really the case that a given character “by any other name would smell as sweet”?
My thanks to Farah Mendlesohn, Emanuelle Burton, Jane Kurtz, Ann Dowker, Danielle Smith, Helen Dineen, Chris Haughton, Virgina Lowe and Sinead O’Higgins for help compiling this list of name changes. If you’ve any more to add, please let me know via the comments.
But now, returning to the lovely Odd Dog, we were inspired by the picnic scene in Claudia Boldt’s book to recreate our own doggy-apple-y scene. First I created a tree capable of standing upright on its own. I cut the two sections out of a thick cardboard box, using a stanley knife for all the branches.
Next we printed with apple halves to make our apples for the tree. The hardest thing was cutting the apples in half with a perfectly vertical slice – necessary to get a good apple shaped print. The girls also used a half onion to make prints on the tree, to simulate bark.
With our tree assembled and laden with apples we invited the dogs to a plasticine picnic – the girls used the plasticine to create lots more little apples, and baskets for gathering them. Soon Helmut and Igor were having great fun on our kitchen table!
Whilst making our apple prints and picnic we listened to:
Other activities which might be fun to try alongside reading Odd Dog include:
Disclosure: I received my copy of Odd Dog from the publishers. Nevertheless, this review reflects my own and honest opinion.