I love reading translated fiction, especially for children. Some of my favourite stories were not originally published in English – Inkheart by Cornelia Funke was originally published in German and The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was originally published in Spanish. Thank goodness for publishers like the wonderful Gecko Press who translate the best books in to English for children to enjoy here in New Zealand. Gecko Press’ latest translated gem is The Ice Sea Pirates by Frida Nilsson. This wonderful story brought back memories of the first time I read my favourite book, Inkheart, as it took me on an adventure that swept me away.
Siri lives on a small island with her younger sister, Miki, and her old, tired father. An outing on a nearby island to collect berries ends in tragedy as Miki is taken by pirates. These are not just any pirates, but those from the Snow Raven, a ship from the stories that Siri tells her sister. The Snow Raven is captained by the most wicked pirate in all the seas, Captain Whitehead, a pirate with hair white as snow and a heart as empty as an ice cave. Children who are taken by Whitehead are never seen again as they get sent to work in his mines until their bodies and minds are broken. Siri knows that she is the only person who can save her sister and so sets out to get her back by any means.
The Ice Sea Pirates is an adventure story full of pirates, wolves, mermaids, frozen landscapes and a whole lot of heart. It is a story about an incredibly brave girl who never gives up on her search for her sister. Frida Nilsson, and her skilled translator, Robert Graves, transport the reader to the unforgiving Ice Sea and make you feel that you are right there beside Siri the whole way. You feel the biting, icy wind, feel Siri’s gnawing hunger and her heartache for the friends she makes along the way, and hear the creaking and groaning of the frozen sea. The writing is beautiful. Some of the descriptions of the characters and places were so perfect that I had to reread them several times.
Siri is one of those characters that becomes your best friend. You are right there beside her and get inside her head. She goes through so much on her journey to find her sister – she leaves home by herself to rescue her sister, faces down white wolves, stows away on boats with angry men, and stands up to vicious pirates – but she never gives up. She is determined to find her sister, rescue her friend and protect those who cannot protect themselves.
I loved The Ice Sea Pirates and I know that Siri and her story will stay with me for a long time. It is the perfect read aloud for ages 9 and up and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves adventure stories with a touch of magic and wonder.