Young readers’ reviews: translated fiction book club at Colmore Junior School

We were thrilled to support Colmore Junior School, in England, with their first translated fiction book club this month! Congratulations to the 20 pupils in Year 6 (aged 10 and 11) who read these four books and wrote these wonderful book reviews… AND interviewed one of the translators, Emily Balistrieri on a video call to Japan!

Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder

Author: Jo Nesbø

Interior illustrations by Mike Lowery, cover by Mark Beech and Nick Steam

Translator: Tara Chace

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Language translated from: Norwegian [Norway]

Reviewed by: Harry, Olivia, Sophie and Doris

The story is set in Denmark and a doctor has made a fart powder and two friends try to sell it. Our favourite character was Doctor Proctor because he is funny and determined to accomplish his dreams. We think the most exciting scene was when the bullies tried to break in but Lisa had a plan to switch the fart powder. 

We would probably recommend this book to children aged 7-9 because of the ‘fart’ humour and not too difficult vocabulary. 

A Good Day for Climbing Trees

Author: Jaco Jacobs

Illustrator: Jim Tierney

Translator: Kobus Geldenhuys

Publisher: Oneworld / Rock the Boat

Language translated from: Afrikaans [South Africa]

Reviewed by: Yusray, Amna, Abigail, Lucas and Hakeem

The story is about 2 people who set off to save a tree. The tree cutters try to cut the tree down but Marnus and Leila try to defend the tree, then lots of people join the protest. Our favourite character was Leila because she does not want the tree to be cut down so she fights for what she believes in, to try and save it. The saddest part was when the tree was chopped down near the end of the book.

We’d recommend it to 11 year olds and a bit older because it has a good sense of humour for more older children and would be hard for little children to understand. 

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Author: Eiko Kadono

Illustrator: Joe Todd Stanton

Translator: Emily Balistrieri

Publisher: Puffin Books

Language translated from: Japanese [Japan]

Reviewed by: Isabel, Ashvi, Barachel, Tarah and Poppy

Kiki is a witch who’s travelled to a new town because it was her coming of age day. She travels to a town called Koriko and makes a living out of delivering things to people. At first she struggles to fit in but then people begin to accept her. All of the characters have great personalities but the favourite of this group is Jiji, Kiki’s black cat. Kiki is a strong character and is very open. We also like Osono for her friendly personality. The funniest parts in the book were when Kiki had to deliver the belly bands which were so funny or when Kiki became the human washing line!

The moral of the book is very strong – accepting people for who they are and what they believe in. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a film that we will have to watch! We would recommend this book to people our age (10-11) because it has moments we can all relate to. 

The Adventures of Na Willa

Author: Reda Gaudiamo

Illustrator: Cecilia Hidayat

Translators: Ikhda Ayunning Nahalsi Degoul and Kate Wakeling

Publisher: The Emma Press

Language translated from: Indonesian and Javanese [Indonesia]

Reviewed by: Bing, Bertie, Grace and Naomi 

Review by Bing

The book is set in the suburbs of Surabaya, Indonesia. It’s about a little girl called Na Willa and her adventures everyday. My favourite character was Dul because I like his personality (he’s daring unlike me) and he doesn’t really overreact when he loses his leg. The book reminded me A BIT of The Railway Children. Just a BIT. One sad scene in the book was when Dul lost his leg whilst playing, venturing near the railway line. It was sad because Dul was one of my favourite characters in the book.

I would recommend it to probably 7+ children and above because some of the sections of the book might be a teeny bit unsuitable for some younger children, but overall it’s okay.

Review by Bertie

The book is set in Indonesia and is about an adventurous girl who just wanted to go to school like her friends. I liked the character Dul because he’s so chaotic and chases trains! One time he even got his leg injured in the process! He’s also very adventurous. The most memorable scene was Dul’s leg injury. It was just upsetting and so tragic with his father in tears as well as Dul himself. Serves him right for jumping on trains and riding them out!!

I would recommend this book to everyone, it’s just a fun book with Na Willa being so matter of factly and persistent. It was pretty much about the humanity and tragedy of growing up and being a child in a big city.

Review by Grace

The story is set in Indonesia and it is about a little girl in the 1960s called Na Willa that does many things for her life journey. My favourite character was Na Willa because she believes in herself and is confident in what she says and does. It reminded me of a film about a small 6 year old boy who comes from China because the boy went on his own adventure. For me the funniest scene was when Na Willa ate the fish eyes and she said that they were ‘delicious’.

I would recommend the book for teenagers, because the words are fairly complex. Also there are many pages with a lot of words.

Review by Naomi

The book is set in Surabaya, Indonesia. It is about a small girl’s life in Indonesia. It’s a different layout to most normal books. Of all the characters, I liked Dul the best because he would always include Na Willa and was very daring. Also Dul’s mother died when he was born so he had to go through a lot. The saddest scene is when Dul’s leg gets run over by a train and he is being carried off screaming. In the end he does survive and has to have a peg leg.

I would recommend this book to 10+ years because some of the words are complex and there are sad moments.

Translator interview

A couple of weeks after reading these books and writing their brilliant book reviews, a group of pupils from Colmore Junior School formed the Birmingham Children’s Translation Book Club and conducted this video interview with Japanese translator, Emily Balistrieri:

Huge thanks to all the pupils and staff at Colmore Junior School who helped with the first Year 6 Translated Fiction Book Club! Thank you also to Jennifer Arnold and Newcastle University for supporting this initiative and providing the four books.

Teachers! If you would like to run a similar book club with your class, please browse this site for age-specific book recommendations, or ask the translated kid lit community at @worldkidlit. You can search the website by target age group, language of origin, country or continent of origin.

We would love to publish your pupils’ book reviews, with their permission of course. Please send us reviews by email: We only publish young people’s first name and age, but they can use a pen name if they prefer.

Parents, same goes. If you have a budding critic who would like to see their book review published on this website (which has over 4000 readers), please send it our way – with their permission please.

Please tell your local school and library about World Kid Lit Month in September and encourage them to check out our recommended translations lists … Bon voyage, wherever you and your young people end up travelling by book!

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