The Noisy Classroom by Ieva Flamingo, illustrated by Vivianna Maria Staņislavska
The three translators who have rendered this collection of poetry freshly from Latvian into English have maintained a consistent first person voice of a child expressing his or her thoughts and feelings.
The subject matter is rooted in daily life in school but it ranges wider, referencing the school of life as well as referring to actual classrooms and how they interrelate. ‘Whatever flames might flicker in eyes,/I won’t be deceived or fooled./because you learn about warmth in real life - / they don’t teach you that in school.’ (‘What They Don’t Teach You in School’)
The poems express the frustration of not being able to step outside the rigid lines imposed by school and society - expressed forcefully in the poem above and in ‘School Wants’ and more subtly in ‘Nature Studies’ where the writer is marked down ‘for daring to take up the case for moths.’
The ways in which life online can expand your world or make you feel isolated, sometimes simultaneously, are well captured in ‘Friends’ and ‘I’m Sitting in a Wifi Hotspot’ and in the questionnaire culture highlighted in ‘ASKfm’. Modern technology manifests itself in other ways, such as a lament to the demise of ‘Chalk’ as ‘The interactive whiteboard heralds the dawn.’
This hardback volume has a very different look and feel from previous collections for children published by The Emma Press, including ‘Moon Juice’ by Kate Wakeling, the 2017 CLiPPA winner. The font in which the poems are printed is brown and this is echoed in the colour palette used in the illustrations where it takes on a purplish tinge in pictures where red and blue predominate. The endpapers have pictures of children in the noisy classroom who can be spotted throughout the book.
Other features are an opportunity to learn some Latvian words relating to school and ideas for writing your own poems using Ieva Flamingo’s as inspiration and an invitation to email them to the publisher. Very pleasingly, biographical information is given about the three translators as well as the poet and the illustrator, a recognition of the significant role all of them have had in the production of this thoughtful and enjoyable book.
Translated from Latvian by Žanete Vevere Pasqualini, Sara Smith and Richard O’Brien
The Emma Press 9781910139820