Goodnight Mr. Clutterbuck

posted in: Gill J. Timbers, Mauri Kunnas | 5

Mr. Clutterbuck is the busiest sleepwalker in town. Mild-mannered and unassuming by daytime, at night-time we get to see quite a different side to perhaps the funniest goat in all of children’s literature.

Once night falls, quite unbeknownst to himself, Mr. Clutterbuck explores the streets of his town inadvertently causing chaos. Seemingly calamitous events, however, miraculously turn out to have happy endings, and after playing a crucial – if surprising – role in ending a battle between feuding biker gangs, saving a sausage factory from bankruptcy and giving a new lease of life to a famous rock band, Mr. Clutterbuck finds himself an accidental but much appreciated hero.

Goodnight Mr. Clutterbuck by Mauri Kunnas, translated by Jill G. Timbers creaks at the seams with laughter and crazy shenanigans; it’s an utter delight to read. There’s rich nonsense word-play alongside inventive and imaginative storytelling. Time and again readers will giggle and gasp and revel in Mr. Clutterbuck’s gloriously wacky world.

Mr. Clutterbuck’s nocturnal adventures have taken a leaf out of the best slapstick movies of Laurel and Hardy or Buster Keaton, but with the added charm of a souped-up Richard Scarry landscape and cast of characters. This funny goat’s utter innocence ensures his crazy capers are even funnier, for their absurdity and excess is only matched by this charming goat’s naive lack of self-awareness.

Whilst the humour – both visual and verbal – is a stand-out feature of this Finnish import, there’s a deeper and rather reassuring message underlying all the tom-foolery; even when things appear disastrous, good things can result from the chaos created. This subtle but reassuring message adds a satisfying layer of hope to all the delicious strands of silliness, making this book a real keeper.

Lusciously detailed, high-octane cartoony illustrations full of sparky energy add further layers of storytelling. With most double page spreads featuring multiple picture panels, at times not unlike a comic strip, but without the enclosed frames, there’s a huge amount to pore over on every page. The richly humorous illustrations full of hidden details, alongside the length of this picture book (the word count is more like that of a very first chapter book than a typical UK picture book) remind me of another Nordic author/illustrator I adore; Sven Nordqvist and his Findus and Pettson stories.

Goodnight Mr. Clutterbuck is one of the first titles from a relatively new children’s imprint, Elsewhere Editions, which is “devoted to translating imaginative picture books from all corners of the world“. They want to focus on titles which have elements of “play, while grappling with essential questions” and feature the presence of “distinctive voices and visions… authors who create a universe of their own that we can enter, and that might alter ours.You can find out more here. I’m very excited by Elsewhere Editions’ vision and look forward to sharing more books by them with you as soon as I can. (UK folk please note – whilst Elsewhere Editions is based in the US, they are distributed here in the UK, so bookshops, schools, libraries and YOU should be able to find them easily without resorting to ordering from overseas.)

Inspired by a particularly funny scene involving a graffiti artists and a flood of spicy mustard in Goodnight Mr. Clutterbuck we decided to give making our own mustard a go, using these instructions.

We soaked mustard seeds in water and vinegar over night before grinding them with some honey and dill. It took quite a while for the food processor to turn the seeds into a paste, and the dill gave the mustard a wonderful (but perhaps slightly strange) green colour, but… it tastes pretty good in a cheese sandwich!

These sorts of open sandwichess are popular across Scandinavia, including in Mr Clutterbuck’s home of Finland, where I believe they are called voileipä. So may we present to the world a new literary slice of yumminess: The Clutterbuck Voileipä. They are truly delicious (but don’t guarantee to save you from sleepwalking 😉 )

Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by its publishers.

This is my first review as part of my 2018 Literary Voyage Around the World, encouraged and supported by Gathering Books.

5 Responses

  1. Simone Fraser

    Such a fantastic post! I always love to see non-English books translated; I really do believe there is a different mental approach… And thanks for the culinary education! = D

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