1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up discussion

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Monthly Book Club > June 2017 - Nesthäkchen and her Dolls

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message 1: by Manybooks, Active moderator (last edited May 28, 2017 01:56PM) (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
In June, we will be reading Else Ury's Nesthaekchen and Her Dolls: First English Edition of the German Children's Classic Translated and Annotated by Steven Lehrer (Nesthäkchen und ihre Puppen in its original German).

The English language version (actually the first ever English language edition) has been translated by Stephen Lehrer and is available on Amazon as both a paperback and also as a Kindle e-book. The translation looks decent enough, except that Stephen Lehrer has obviously used a more recent and modern German language version of the original as his base, as most of the abridgements that I found so annoying in the modern (later 20th century) editions of Nesthäkchen have been repeated in the translation; the book is still magical, but this does annoy a bit.

And for those actually thinking of reading the book in German, there are now many downloads of Else Ury's works available on Kindle (and relatively cheaply) and most of these do seem to be complete and unabridged.

The only rule I have is for people to be respectful and that even if you do not end up liking Nesthäkchen to accept that others might find it wonderful and have nostalgic memories of it.

I have no preferences with regard to spoilers, so if you do want to use spoiler tags, go ahead, but I never insist on them.


message 2: by Manybooks, Active moderator (last edited Jun 04, 2017 06:43AM) (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
The whole publication history of the original German series is getting more and more complicated. I have both the original series from 1913- to the late 20's and a modern version (from 1997 onwards). And when I was in Mannheim, Germany, on a student exchange in 1992/1993, I read public library copies of the series (which were probably published in the 1970s or 1980s, but I cannot be sure as I never did check that).

And with the Mannheim public library series of Nesthäkchen, I could very strongly tell that there had been many and massive abridgements from the original (which I still remembered being read to me as a child, the original series, that is), something that I found quite massive disappointing and a major let-down to say the least.

Now, I have just started rereading the 1997 edition of the Nesthäkchen series (that I got from Amazon Germany) and lo and behold, most of the information, most of the details (not all, but definitely most) that had been abridged and changed, omitted from the earlier modern editions of the series are back or rather have been put back, very much appreciated (even if there are still a few instances where this has seemingly not taken place, this is still a vast improvement and also a case of the publishers listening to the public who had increasingly demanded that the abridgements be put back, that the changes be removed).

However, I have to also now wonder whether translator Stephen Lehrer is actually translating (or rather that he has actually translated) his new English language version of the first book (the one we are reading this month, the so far first and only English language version in existence) as well as the sequels up to the fifth book from these earlier 1950s - 1980s modern German editions of Nesthäkchen (and NOT the original 1913 onward novels), as ALL of the abridgements and omissions that bothered me then (when I read the Mannheim public library copies) also seem to appear prominently and stridently in Lehrer's translations.

It would certainly explain a lot, but I also have to wonder why Stephen Lehrer did not either translate the original editions or make sure that the German versions from which he translated were the most recent 1997 onward publications. But I guess, Lehrer could also just have been following the general trend of omissions of potentially politically incorrect details so common with Else Ury's Nesthäkchen series (for these omissions and changes in the translated narrative, they all seem to be geared to weeding out potentially politically incorrect or problematic content, such as for example that in the original series, in the first book, Annemarie Braun's little African doll is called very messy and out of control, that she loses her belongings constantly, and is also called a little Negro child, ein kleines Negerkind).


message 3: by Manybooks, Active moderator (last edited Jun 04, 2017 06:31AM) (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
One thing that is particularly noticeable with the first instalment of the Nesthäkchen series is that the beginning of the novel is very much simply episodic nuggets to show the reader Annemarie's life and what her family is and represents (up to about the time that Annemarie and her brother Klaus visit the farming estate of their uncle and aunt, after which, a less episodical narrative takes hold). And while I have always enjoyed episodical historical fiction, if a potential reader does not enjoy the latter, the first part of this novel, of Nesthäkchen and her Dolls might not necessarily appeal all that much (something to consider if you are considering either purchasing or downloading this translation).


message 4: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob) (jenisnotabooksnob) | 45 comments I'm hoping to get to this one, but, I may not. I didn't realize how busy June was going to be. My daughter is finishing up kindergarten and has testing in the next couple weeks, so, we're doing some practice work. Hopefully I will still work this one in. It's only $2 right now in English.


message 5: by Manybooks, Active moderator (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
Jennifer wrote: "I'm hoping to get to this one, but, I may not. I didn't realize how busy June was going to be. My daughter is finishing up kindergarten and has testing in the next couple weeks, so, we're doing som..."

These threads stay open anyhow, and if you cannot get to the book, I would not worry about it.

Hope your daughter does not get too stressed with all that testing. Perhaps reading the story to her might be fun (as the episodes are or at least can be quite amusing, I know I loved them when my grandmother read the book to me when I was about your daughter's age).


message 6: by Manybooks, Active moderator (last edited Jun 04, 2017 04:47PM) (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
And I do have to reiterate that if anyone is actually considering reading the novel in German, I would very strongly suggest downloading one of the many (and surprisingly cheap) Kindle versions of the original and to NOT purchase a paper copy of the still in current print versions, as the Kindle downloads ALL seem to be taken verbatim from the original 1913/1914 German edition, while the newer versions have been adapted and even somewhat abridged (and the ones from post WWII to about the late 80s have been massively and annoyingly redacted and abridged). Basically with the Kindle editions, you are reading the original (but thankfully generally not in Fraktur, German Gothic script which while pretty to look at, I for one have always found difficult to read).


message 7: by Karen (new)

Karen Hoehne | 156 comments Mod
I am a little over halfway through the book, just at the chapter where they arrive at the farm. It's a very sweet, old-fashioned story and a pleasure to read. Just out of curiosity -- how do you pronounce Nesthäkchen and what does it mean. Through Google Translate, I get "nest checkmark!"


message 8: by Manybooks, Active moderator (last edited Jun 04, 2017 01:41PM) (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "I am a little over halfway through the book, just at the chapter where they arrive at the farm. It's a very sweet, old-fashioned story and a pleasure to read. Just out of curiosity -- how do you pr..."

The meaning is "little nest hook" (meaning the youngest and the one everyone spoils and the one that especially the parents do not really want to see grow up so fast, i.e. hooked in the nest so to speak).

It is a bit hard to explain non orally how to pronounce it.

Nest is like it is in English

But häkchen has two of the more difficult to pronounce German letters for English speakers the ä (which is actually pronounced with the umlauts a bit like an English a sound "eh")

the ch sound is hard to describe without actually pronouncing it for you, kind of like a ch between one's back teeth

Nest h 'eh' k chen sorry if you were in front of me, I could do this a bit more easily and actually orally show it to you.

Glad you are enjoying the book


message 9: by Karen (new)

Karen Hoehne | 156 comments Mod
Thanks -- I have German heritage on both sides of my family and quite understand your pronunciation. I kind of figured it meant something like "nestling."


message 10: by Manybooks, Active moderator (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Thanks -- I have German heritage on both sides of my family and quite understand your pronunciation. I kind of figured it meant something like "nestling.""

It basically means that and it is the diminutive form

der Nesthaken
das Nesthäkchen

If you are enjoying the books, I would also strongly suggest keeping on with the series (Stephen Lehrer has thus far translated the first five novels).


message 11: by Manybooks, Active moderator (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Thanks -- I have German heritage on both sides of my family and quite understand your pronunciation. I kind of figured it meant something like "nestling.""

Karen, if your German is good enough and if you have a region free DVD, I strongly recommend the Nesthäkchen mini-series from the 80s (still seems to be readily available on Amazon Germany). There are some differences from the books of course, but it is truly a gem.


message 12: by Karen (new)

Karen Hoehne | 156 comments Mod
Manybooks wrote: "Karen wrote: "Thanks -- I have German heritage on both sides of my family and quite understand your pronunciation. I kind of figured it meant something like "nestling.""

Karen, if your German is g..."


My German is not that good! Mainly just understanding somewhat what the older family members were talking about. Most of them stopped using German during World War I, but they did talk among themselves at home.


message 13: by Manybooks, Active moderator (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Manybooks wrote: "Karen wrote: "Thanks -- I have German heritage on both sides of my family and quite understand your pronunciation. I kind of figured it meant something like "nestling.""

Karen, i..."


I wish the DVD series were available with subtitles but as the books had never been translated till now, that will likely not happen.


message 14: by Manybooks, Active moderator (new)

Manybooks | 220 comments Mod
For those of you who are reading the English language translation, where is the farm estate of Nesthäkchen's uncle and aunt located in the English language version?

In the original German version from 1913/1914, the estate is in Silesia (Schlesien) and because that area was lost during WWII, the oh so enlightened publishers post 1945 onwards either made the two children travel to Bavaria or have simply erased anything specifically geographic, really stupid in my opinion, as why should children not be reading about Silesia simply because Silesia was lost in WWII.


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