Books about Survival

By Clare Gaunt

I’ve selected three wonderful books on the theme of Survival because it feels like an important issue to pay attention to right now!

These fabulous authors, along with their incredible illustrators and translators, show us how to keep on adventuring from the straightforward perspective of young humans discovering our world. Their approach reminds me of the famous Picasso quote: “The first half of life is learning to be an adult – the second half is learning to be a child.” Such fresh books are a joy to read and look at together on repeat.

The magical main characters of the first two stories are very much engaged in exploring in the present tense. They show how to move without becoming discouraged, and conjure up the wide-eyed wonder of what it feels like to encounter things and experiences for the first time.

Here, life is a journey of perpetual eye-openings, in which innocence and openness to the world are very valuable travel companions.

Pomelo’s Big Adventure

Written by Ramona Badescu (Romania)
Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud
Translated Claudia Zoe Bedrick
Translated from French [France]
Published by Enchanted Lion Books

Pomelo thinks it’s time for a big adventure. He packs plenty of strawberries and his other essentials, and takes the road as it comes. His travels lead him to encounter a sneaky rat, and gain practical help and solace from his parents. Then he meets someone else special with whom to watch the sun set over the sea.

Pomelo is the most eyes-wide-open little pink elephant I have ever met. There are a whole series of Pomelo books. In this one our hero follows his father’s half-heard advice to “Go as far as you can,” which is a great pieces of life advice.

The author really captures what it feels like to discover the world for the first time. Pomelo’s words grasp at how things are as he experiences them but never provide neat answers, precise definitions or moral instruction. He is an expert wonderer, an amateur explorer, and his awe is inspiring.

Dumpster Dog

Written by Colas Gutman
Illustrated by Marc Boutavant
Translated by Allison M. Charette & Claudia Zoe Bedrick
Translated from French [France]
Published by Enchanted Lion Books

Dumpster Dog was born in a bin. He’s ridden with fleas, gifted with unbound energy and a handful of brains. Yet he doesn’t know what an owner is. So our hero decides it’s high time to find one…

This fabulous tale of a trusting dog getting into and surviving all kinds of scrapes through kindness is written with real gusto. Like it’s protagonist, it’s funny, bouncy and loveable, and although this is a chapter book, the telling illustrations are an important part of the tale.

Majestic Mountains

Written by Mia Cassany
Illustrated by Marcos Navarro
Translated by Clare Gaunt
Translated from Spanish [Spain]
Published by Welbeck Publishing Group Limited, Orange Mosquito

This non-fiction book was written as an antidote to lockdown and introduces readers to some of the world’s most spectacular mountain ecosystems, and the rare and not-so-rare animals who find interesting ways to survive in them.

It is stunningly beautiful, and includes a counting game, to encourage readers to interact with each of the unique and beautiful animals living in the very different environments it describes.

A fabulous introduction to the surprising wealth of different mountain landscapes and habitats all over the world. A great way to travel to places you may not have heard of, without moving.

Meet Clare Gaunt

I was born in Ashington (like Bobby and Jackie Charlton), went to university in Cambridge (where I studied English) and have worked in London, Brussels, Barcelona and now the South of France.

When we were little, my mum used to drop me and my sisters off at the library while she finished the shopping. They had an amazing Asterix collection, which was probably my first introduction to kids books in translation, setting the benchmark pretty high.

My own daughter is now 8, and our family work in French, Spanish (Colombian and Castillian) and English, so we are lucky enough to be immersed in stories from all over the place.

Our cat was a stray kitten when he decided he wanted to live in our house. I like to imagine he used to be one of the knights living in the 12th century commandery in the village who has come back to watch over us. We call him gatulet (gato = cat in Spanish let = the diminutive in Catalan, in other words little), but he answers to Leo (di Caprio) which is the name he received from our lovely neighbour.