Julia Donaldson, James Robertson (trans.) - Room on the Broom in Scots (4 stars)

Room on the Broom in Scots

An already engaging and exciting story becomes even more theatrical when ‘performed’ in a new language

The winning combination of Julia Donaldson’s stories and Axel Scheffler’s illustrations has seen their picture books grace the shelves and bedside tables of children the world over.

As such, it’s a formula you don’t want to mess with without due care and attention. Having sensitively tackled two previous Donaldson works (The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child) James Robertson has taken on the even bigger challenge of translating Room on the Broom into Scots.

Fans of the original will know that a fair bit happens to the book’s broomstick-flying heroine, as she travels through the sky, picks up a gaggle of cute hitchhikers, then narrowly avoids becoming a dragon’s dinner. Robertson, therefore, had his work cut out for him.

The illustrations are exactly as they were, the story itself remains unchanged – and some of the translation is plainly obvious to all (rather than enquire if the witch has ‘room on the broom for a dog like me?’, the playful canine now asks ‘is there room on the broom for a dug like masel?’).

But there are some real challenges here for little ones, and the majority of parents. Words such as ‘breenged’, ‘bricht’, ‘pechin’, ‘sheuch’ and ‘reenged’ will throw many readers – but how wonderful to discover the Scots language through such a well-known and well-loved medium?

Once again, getting your tongue around the words at storytime might prove a stretch at first, but this already engaging and exciting story becomes even more theatrical when ‘performed’ in a new language.

James Robertson

The poet and novelist discusses his work. James Robertson is a poet, fiction writer, essayist and editor. He was former writer-in-residence at Brownsbank Cottage, home of Hugh MacDiarmid and founded ITCHYCOO, which publishes books in Scots for young readers.

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