Ladies and gentlemen, let me present you the second book in my archive of inspiring children’s books, a Norwegian treasure (which unfortunately doesn’t seem to have been translated to English) written and illustrated by Camilla Kuhn:
Hvordan Greger Grinebiter havnet i bitter duell, og alt nesten ble helt rosa
Loosely translated: How George The Neighbourhood Stalker Got Into A Duel And The World Almost Turned Rosy
by Camilla Kuhn
Badge of greatness for the hilarious story and lively illustrations
This Norwegian book tells a story of an old bitter neighbourhood stalker, whose life revolves around making sure that no-one breaks the rules. He has covered the corridors with warnings and reminders and is always looking for a chance to complain. One day whilst spying on his neighbours from the window, he notices that someone is actually keeping an eye on him. It turns out that another stalker has moved into the same building. This is of course very upsetting, as there can’t be two spoilsports in the same area. To find out who gets to stay and who has to move out, the two stalkers have to compete in who is the best at complaining and being a difficult neighbour.
When I realized that this book was made by an author-illustrator, my jaw sort of dropped. Firstly, because the story itself is extremely amusing and well-written (I read the Finnish translation “Miten herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä joutui kauhukääkkien kaksintaisteluun ja maailma melkein muuttui ruusunpunaiseksi”. It was great, so applause to the translator!). The humour in the book is very smart, starting from the names of the characters to witty points made about the rules and formalities that anyone who’s ever lived in an apartment building can relate to. Secondly, the illustrations are simply brilliant; I read the book twice, first focusing on the story and then going back to take a more profound look at the images. Each page is full of life, expressions and details that make the story all the more fun. I think Camilla Kuhn really excels in telling an amusing story, both visually and in writing. The story stays close to real life with the events taking place in ordinary locations like a supermarket, but the exaggerated details and little absurdities make it extremely imaginative in all its commonness.
In terms of colours, the book stood out on the shelf for its fairly muted, earthy colour palette. Whilst reading the book, I wondered if more vibrant choice of colours would have made it even better, making the characters and the environments pop up and draw the reader’s attention. However, I concluded that the muted tones were actually exactly what the story needed; they created the kind of vibe that immediately brings you to the suburbs, where average families, the elderly and a few neighbourhood stalkers live.
This kind of amusingly realistic stories are totally my cup of tea. Camilla Kuhn seems to have been quite prolific as an author-illustrator, so I will have to find out if her other books have been translated to Finnish or English. Someone, who had reviewed this neighbourhood stalker-book, mentioned that the humour is similar to the one in Erlend Loe’s Kurt-series, so those books should be worth of checking out, too!