Thomas & Friends: Day of the Diesels, The Movie Story Book

Everything about the title and cover of this book fills me with dread: it’s brash, it’s loud, it’s “based on the DVD!” I don’t know exactly what it is about the books of children’s TV programmes that puts me off so much. They often seem to be poorly written, knocked off in a hurry by an unnamed hack for a publisher who know’s they’ll shift them regardless. There are some notable exceptions. Maybe I’ll come back to those one day.

Day of the Diesels
Taking this one as a typical example, there are random words that jump out of the page at you. There are too many adjectives, too many adverbs, too much use of a thesaurus:

Thomas and Percy wheeshed with worry.

They chuffed off together before Percy could even peep hello.

With his wheel wobbling nervously every inch of the way, Percy followed Diesel 10 into the Dieselworks.

The flames hissed and fizzed, and flickered and flashed. Through the swirling smoke, they saw Belle and Flynn fearlessly fighting the fire.

The Revd. W. A. Awdry‘s prose on the other hand, is much flatter and, I think, all the better for it. Admittedly it’s rather dated but the trains are at least much more likely to “say” things than “wheesh”, “peep” or “chuff” them. By the time his son Christopher was writing the books, they were starting to fall into that trap though – perhaps because it had undoubtedly become a franchise by then. (As a side issue, when flicking through them just now, I was surpised to see how many different illustrators the original stories had.)

I was highly amused by Sarah Ditum’s Comment is Free piece on the Grauniad website the other day (see below) in which she argues that the Isle of Sodor is a chillingly patriarchal place. While not altogether agreeing, I can certainly see where she’s coming from…

Now I have to go because fils cadet has spotted Thomas on the screen and wants me to read him the book. Joy!

About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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