Pelle No-Tail had a hard start to life. Living in the Swedish countryside, he was brought up on a farm with lots of other cats who made fun of him. They’d take each others’ hands, dance around Pelle, and sing mocking songs about poor little Pelle. And all because he doesn’t have a tail. It was bitten off when he was a kitten, and that’s how he got his name. But little Pelle doesn’t let that stop him. One day, after falling asleep in the back of an unlocked car, he finds himself adopted into a loving family. Now in the city, Pelle has all sorts of adventures with his family – he gets lost, stops a fire, receives Christmas presents, and evades the nasty tomcat Måns, who is really rather jealous of Pelle.
The Adventures of Pelle No-Tail, originally written in Swedish, is a series of twelve books published between 1939 and 1972. The books became an instant classic, spawning a children’s opera and four films. Scientists even named four asteroids after characters from the books! They’ve been a classic in Swedish culture for years, and have been translated into Polish, Finnish, Danish, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, and now, for the first time, in English.
The elegant translation by eminent Australian translator Stephanie Smee and her Swedish mother Ann-Magrete Smee captures all the feel of the original’s Swedish setting. They retain his Swedish name (Pelle instead of Peter), and even the Swedish exclamations, such as the words for yes. Not only does this ground the book in its original Swedish context, but it creates a fun guessing game of learning what these phrases mean.
The Adventures of Pelle No-Tail are heartwarming and fun, with each chapter featuring yet another adventure for little Pelle to go on. It’s not just about the cute kitten (and he really is very cute), but these are tales of friendship, perseverance, and kindness, encouraging readers to embrace imperfections and stand up for what’s right. And it doesn’t hurt that there are adorable little cat jokes along the way, with Pelle’s internal verbose monologue only ever translating as “Miaow!” to humans.
The Adventures of Pelle No-Tail are perfect for kids aged six and up, either to read by themselves or with their parents. They’ll get hooked on this tail-less kitten, and even better – the English translations of the next two Pelle adventures are on their way.
On Sunday 11th June at 2pm there will be a launch for The Adventures of Pelle No-Tail at Better Read Than Dead in Sydney. Stephanie and Ann-Margrete will be there, and there’ll be Swedish cinnamon buns, elderflower cordial, and colouring stations for the kids. Details here.