Gosta Knutsson (text), Stephanie Smee and Ann-Margrete Smee (translators), The Adventures of Pelle No-Tail, Piccolo Nero/Black Inc. Books, 29 May 2017, 160pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781863959247
This much-loved classic children’s story proved a very enjoyable chapter read. The star of the story is young Pelle, a tabby cat whose tail was bitten off by a rat a few days after birth. In the cat community, having no tail is considered socially deplorable, and poor little Pelle’s unfortunate injury makes him the subject of great scorn. Pelle’s naïve and innocent nature leads him into all sorts of escapades: I was especially amused by his delight at attacking a fox fur coat, his shock at discovering snakes for the first time, and his confused reaction to the arrival of a Christmas tree.
The Adventures of Pelle No-Tail is sprinkled with Swedish traditions, like the delightful bookish custom of putting rhymes on Christmas presents. The book was translated from the Swedish by Stephanie and Ann-Margrete Smee, who chose to leave in some Swedish words, which only add to the book’s whimsy.
The crisp, clear prose and gentle humour make the story immensely readable. Despite its age – the series was written in 1939 – the tale doesn’t feel dated at all. Rather, Pelle’s adventures have joined that exclusive pantheon of classics that appeal to children from every generation. Suitable for primary school readers.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Foster