In Dirk Lives in Holland, we continue the Riwkin-Brick series “Children’s Everywhere.” The Swedish title, Jackie Lives in Holland (1963) was translated by someone, but it’s just as well we don’t know who. Whoever it was did a terrible job. Not knowing Swedish, how can I tell that he or she did an awful job? Because part way through the book, Dirk is referred to as “Jackie.” Anyone reading it, without knowing the original title, would be completely and utterly lost.
Pro tip: If you’re going to insist on changing the names of the people in books, at least be consistent and not flip-flop back and forth in the same book. I mean, this book is about 40 pages long, 90% pictures. Did no one edit it before it went to print?
But presumably, none of that is Astrid Lindgren’s fault. However, the story is.
Dirk/Jackie is a boy who grows up surrounded by fish. He whines about not being old enough to fish. He whines about not owning a bike. He covets his grandfather’s money that is being hoarded. He chooses his friends based on their submissiveness to his plans. “I like playing with Elleke,” he says at one point in the book, “For she does what I tell her.” Elleke and Dirk play hide and seek but one can’t help but wonder if Elleke is playing or if she is just truly hiding. He tries to take another girl’s bike but she escapes. He gets angry when Elleke is not around to take orders from him. He orders his poor pet rabbit to not eat the grass. Let that one sink in for awhile. He complains to his father about first-world problems. Unable to get what he wants, he complains to his grandparents about first-world problems. Grandfather gives in and buys the brat a bike.
Favorite line: He sometimes climbs up lampposts, but he really shouldn’t do that.