This Translate This! review and sample translation is by literary translator Richard Coombes.
Title: An Old Lady Stepped Out of Her Door
Author: Anna Ignatova
Illustrator: Anna Kuzina
Publisher: Meshcheryakova Publishing, Moscow, 2017
Target age: 3+
Russian author Anna Ignatova lives and writes in St Petersburg. If you want to read a little more about Anna, her writing, what she enjoys in life, and a sample translation from her best-known novella I believe you … I don’t believe you, then click here to be taken to an article on Russian Kid Lit blog. Don’t forget to come back here when you’ve read it!
Anna Kuzina is a young illustrator and animator who has already illustrated 11 picture books, two of them wholly her own. She is trained in art, design and animation—this last she studied at Soyuzmultfilm, the celebrated Moscow-based animation studio which has been producing Russian (and Soviet) cartoons since 1936. Anna’s artwork is distinctive and bursting with life—a quality she attributes to her animation training. You can see samples of her work here. Anna currently divides her professional activities between directing animated films and illustrating books.
Together, the Annas produced a fun-filled comic picture book called An Old Lady Stepped Out Of Her Door, published in Moscow in 2017 by Dom Meshcheryakova. The book can be read to children from aged 3, and children from 6 and parents of any age can read it for themselves.
In the story, an elderly lady leaves home to buy a few things for tea only to find herself facing a bit of a problem.
An old lady stepped out of her door
To pop to the nearest grocery store
For bread, and a cake to tuck into with tea.
She wore a cardy, took her brolly, and the shop she could see
Just over the road, but to her dismay,
A whopping great puddle lay right in the way.
Worse follows as the heavens open and the puddle becomes a river. Will she give up and go home? Certainly not!
So she upturned her brolly to make it a boat,
And sat down in the middle, preparing to float
Straight off to the shop, but the brolly was caught
In a current so rapid, her plans came to naught—
Against expectation she was slightly derailed,
And into the canal on the current she sailed.
From the canal it’s a short journey on an upturned brolly to the Gulf of Finland, and from there to the high seas, prompting the gallant gran to take stock in a rare moment of near-despondency:
‘Ah me,’ she sighed, looking from one side to the other,
‘I wonder if I’m in a small spot of bother.
I’m off out to sea, going far from the shore,
Not heading, it seems, for the grocery store.’
She’s soon cheered up, though, by encounters with a friendly pirate, a kindly admiral, and a very helpful chap from Papua. Meanwhile back home, everyone everywhere is logging on to follow her adventures online, so that when she finally returns, she finds herself a celebrity. The grocery store is quick to cash in, showering her with free goodies:
Baguettes and bloomers pretty much beyond counting,
Donuts and bagels piled up like a mountain,
Chocolate candy and sweets by the score—
The whole thing was cracking PR for the store.
Back home, and time for that cup of tea. Except … she’s forgotten to buy sugar. And so she steps out of her door …
A children’s cartoon has been made of the story, or more accurately made ‘from’ it—the adaptation is rather loose.
The foreign rights to the text are all held by Anna herself. The rights in the original artwork belong to Dom Meshcheryakova.
The original story went down very well with children and adults of all ages. Reviews left by children and their parents and other relatives on the website labirint.ru include comments such as:
‘Lovely! Lovely! The book made our family evening! Everyone was smiling, even my dad (who’s strict) and our cat (who’s serious). Thank you!’
‘A marvellous book—we all liked it, from our 4-year-old to me, a respectable adult! My sons are 4, 9 and 11, and they all laughed when I read it to them. The style is light and there are plenty of illustrations, and there’s a serious side to the story as well. The only minus is that it’s quickly over. I’m going to look for more poems by this author.’
A complete translation of the text and a comprehensive pack of information about the book are available from Richard Coombes.
Richard Coombes is a UK-based writer and Russian to English literary translator. Recent publications include translations by Cambridge University Press, B O D Y magazine, and InTranslation, and original stories published in Anti-Heroin Chic and Down in the Dirt.