This guest post was written by author Ġorġ Mallia
Milied Imħawwad (in the original Swedish En Klurig Jul), written by Ingelin Angerborn and illustrated by Per Gustavsson, is all about Christmas, and, more particularly, Christmas in Sweden.
The Swedes are very big on Christmas, and decorate their windows with stars and candles (both electric and real) from well ahead of time, leading to the traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas eve in which they eat their Christmas ham and lots of different types of fish. Then they often leave their decorations there for many weeks afterwards. It gets very dark very early in Sweden in winter, so the lights of Christmas cut through the darkness and bring joy to all. The Christmas tree is only up for a few short days, of course, because it’s a real tree, unlike the ones we usually put up in Malta.
I love the book En Klurig Jul, which Marie Louise Kold and I have translated into Maltese as Milied Imħawwad and was very happy when Chris Gruppetta of Merlin Publishers suggested that we translate it from the original Swedish. First of all, I love the format… a literary Advent Calendar, with one story a day, ending on a cliff hanger that makes you yearn for the following day’s ‘treat’, and culminating in the conclusion on Christmas Eve.
I can imagine how much fun Maltese children (and their parents) will have if they do read a story a day in much the same way that they eat one chocolate a day from their actual advent calendars. Though I’m sure they are also permitted to read the book straight through if they so wish. And I must say it is going to be a very difficult book to put down, with its story of an alien visitor to the little girl, Rutan, who misses her best friend who has gone to live far away, and who likes one of the boys in her class, and is also teased mercilessly by another.
The book is actually a little window onto the way that Swedes, and particularly Swedish children, celebrate Christmas. We see their traditions and their celebrations, some of which are shared with us Maltese, but most of which are unique to them, or at least to the Scandinavian countries up north.
But the book also presents an incredibly imaginative story of aliens and friends, and the under running comment that goes throughout it is a shout out for inclusivity and how difference is not different at all if there is love and friendship.
We enjoyed translating this from the original Swedish, and even put in a little glossary at the end to explain some of the terms that we could not explain in the book itself… helping Maltese children to understand better the background to this wonderful story, which is also wonderfully illustrated in a very bright, cartoony style.
And to top it all, it’s also a beautifully printed book… the sort you just love to hold and read. A real Christmas treat for all Maltese children.
– Ġorġ Mallia