How does one write a critical commentary on the translated themes of fear and death in Stian Hole's children's picture book Garmann's Summer, a Norwegian story translated into English? How would...

How does one write a critical commentary on the translated themes of fear and death in Stian Hole's children's picture book Garmann's Summer, a Norwegian story translated into English? How would translating those themes affect children's behavior/personality when such themes are avoided in translating children's literature? 

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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To write a critical commentary, you'll first want to do a critical analysis of Stian Hole's children's picture book titled Garmann's Summer. To complete a critical analysis of specifically the themes fear and death, you'll want to identify the author's argument concerning fear and death, figure out why he is making the argument, and figure out if he offers any solutions to the problem/argument. You especially want to examine the picture book for all evidence that illustrates Hole's themes concerning fear and death.

Garmann's Summer is certainly a bit different from what one might normally expect of a picture book in American society. Americans often expect picture books to be cheerful, uplifting, humorous, and if the book presents a moral or thesis, as often seen in "The Berenstain Bears series," then the pictures are warm and bright, making it easy for the reader to be drawn in. In contrast, Garmann's Summer is illustrated using a cross between realism and expressionism. The illustrations resemble photographs, making them representative of realism; yet the photographs have also been very dramatically altered to exaggerate both the image and the feelings that go with the image in the same way that expressionist images are exaggerated. One thing you'll want to examine while performing your critical analysis is exactly what effect the illustrations produce in order to see how the illustrations are used to underscore the themes.

Garmman's Summer focuses on a 6-year-old boy who feels a bit afraid of starting school for the very first time in the fall. But, interestingly, the book offers no solutions for handling such fears. Instead, Garmann's conversation with his aunts leads the aunts and parents to express their own fears. The book is essentially a very open and honest conversation about acknowledging fears, and one of those fears is death. Since there are not always solutions to our fears except to embrace the fearful situation and move past the fears, the book offers no solution to fears, contrary to the expectations of many American readers. Yet the absence of a solution enhances the book's value rather than detracts from it due to the honesty with which the book presents the theme of fear. It is very honest to use characters relating their fears to show that everyone has the need to express fears, and it is very honest to show that there aren't really solutions to all fears except to keep doing what you need to do.

Hence, Hole's main argument concerning the theme of fear is to show that all people feel fear, even adults; all people need to express their fears, and not all fears have solutions. He uses the realistic/expressionistic illustrations to portray his arguments about fears since the realism of the photos shows that fears are indeed real, whereas the expressionism of the photos helps to show the honest truth that one can blow one's fears out of proportion. Hence, such things as Garmann's elderly aunts' wrinkles, their dentures, and Garmann's own frowns are exaggerated through expressionism to show just how frightening fears can be even if we are seeing those fears disproportionately from reality.

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