Claude Ponti is a legend in the world of French children’s literature. He writes and illustrates his books – more than 60 have been published. He wrote the first one (Adele’s Album) for his daughter in 1986 and hasn’t stopped since. Now, what makes his books special are the nonsense whacky characters and stories. It may look strange to people who aren’t used to them, but to me, who has grown up with them, they are amazing and so absolutely creative and unique. Very few have been translated into English, and none of the main ones until now.
Anyway, I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw Hiznobyuti on NetGalley. I wasn’t familiar with the English title but straight away I recognised Ponti’s drawings. I paused, read the title again and then it clicked: Hiznobyuti was a translation of Okilélé (Oh, qu’il est laid literally means “oh, how ugly he is”). I was so happy! I had to request it to see how it was translated. I think Alyson Waters did an amazing job at keeping the original flavour of the text while making it accessible in English. I am so pleased with it. Translation isn’t easy and when you’re faced with such a tricky job, it’s even harder.
I am rambling on and haven’t even said what it was about. Hiznobyuti is a bit of an “ugly duckling”. His family are horrible to him – his name comes from the fact they all used to say “He’s no beauty!” when they looked at him and it stuck… So, one day he decides to leave them and we are told about his adventures in a strange world where nothing makes sense. It’s a beautiful story.
I contacted Hanover Publisher Services, who distribute the book, who confirmed it was a new translation. I was told Alyson Waters had also translated My Valley, which I don’t think I’ve read in French so I’ll be looking it up. Apparently Archipelago (the publisher) are planning to get more Ponti books translated in the near future and I couldn’t be more excited! I think the world needs to know more about Ponti!
Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and Archipelago.