There’s a street party happening in town and Charlie wants to join in. Whilst his mum searches for Charlie’s balloon and party hat, Charlie’s imagination sets flight as he daydreams out loud about all the the spectacular and crazy sights he might see outside: Elephants as taxis, lollipop trees, a cake so big it fills the town square or maybe fireworks bursting with real stars and presents tumbling from the skies. When Charlie and his mum finally step outdoors, could it be that Charlie’s dreams have come true?
Charlie’s Magical Carnival by Marit Törnqvist, a multi-awarding winning illustrator and author based in The Netherlands, is a joyous and riotous story about hopes, happiness and wonder. Particularly delightful if you live in a part of the world where carnivals feature as part of your seasonal celebrations, but equally delightful for anyone who enjoys creativity and inventiveness run wild, this beautiful, richly illustrated book rewards multiple readings.
Acknowledging young desires and the limitless enthusiasm children can have, Charlie not only has his dreams turn into reality, he is also able to be the hero in this story; whilst his mother is slightly apprehensive when faced with the surprises offered up at the carnival Charlie takes his mother’s hand and reassures her. Althought they may not consciously pick up on it, a child reader/listener will no doubt love the fact that it is they, the child, which can make the world not only wondrous but also all ok and safe.
Törnqvist’s gouache and acrylic paintings pack every nook and cranny with utterly delightful details, many of which reflect Dutch cultural traditions, though they work equally well simply as quirky details if you don’t recognise the reality behind them. For example, there are oodles of decorated bikes being used to transport all sorts of luggage, each with their chain encased (a very typical Dutch feature on bikes, but one not so often seen here in the UK).
Likewise my kids were delighted with the cameo featuring a version of the game koekhappen – where slices of cake are hung up and a (blindfolded) person has to try to bite into them – which we traditionally play on birthdays, though it is played on other celebration days too. See if you can spot the two children playing this game on the front cover!
The translator of this text isn’t identified in the book’s bibliographic details (the publisher tells me the translation from Dutch was done in-house) but one decision they made which I particularly like is the change of the protagonist’s name; in the Dutch original, the young boy is called Fabian, and whilst I generally like translations to retain original names for the flavour they give, here the choice of Charlie is a clever echo of another Charlie who enters a world which seems as if it is the result of wild childhood fantasies. Whilst in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ lollipops grow on bushes and in this book they are fruit on trees, both stories share a respect for childhood hopes and imagination and thus the renaming is a clever and apt decision.
A spectacular picture book featuring several fold out pages physically emphasising how full to the brim this story is with joy, wit and wonder Charlie’s Magical Carnival is guaranteed to put smiles on faces young and old alike.
Marit Törnqvist has a special place in Playing by the Book’s heart. One of the first books that became embedded in our family life when our eldest was born was a book illustrated by Törnqvist: Jij bent de liefste (‘You are the loveliest’), a book of utterly gorgeous poetry in Dutch by Hans and Monique Hagen. Törnqvist’s family continued to play a major role in our reading life as our girls grew older; Törnqvist’s mother translated all of the Astrid Lindgren books we shared.(Törnqvist and her family’s close connection to Astrid Lindgren is an amazing one, and you can read more about it here). Several more books illustrated by Marit Törnqvist are published in English by Floris Books.
We chose to celebrate Charlie’s Magical Carnival with an echo of the cake which features in this sumptuous picture book:
But you could also extend the play by making carnival masks or hats (there are so many glorious hats in this book – I think it is one which Sarah MacIntyre aka Children’s Book World’s Queen of Hats might enjoy stepping into the pages of), making lollipops (to go with the lollipop tree which features) and drinking pink lemonade, climbing trees or making a treehouse, or perhaps making paper boats with lots of bunting to sail on their way to a carnival.
With this post I’m taking part in Gathering Books’ Literary Voyage Around The World Reading Challenge 2018. So far, for this challenge I’ve read books from Finland, Latvia, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and now also from The Netherlands.