A whiff of lemongrass and literature

26th June 2009 at 01:00

Year 5 pupils have travelled from Hounslow Town Primary to the heart of Bangkok. They sniff the lemongrass-scented air and hear the roar of tuk-tuks (motorbike taxis) and the explosion of oil on a hot wok as bags of durian chips and prawn crackers are passed around. And all this is without leaving Heathrow.

The multi-sensory Thai experience is one of a series staged by British Airways Community Learning Centre and the charity Outside In. The aim is to introduce British children to contemporary fiction from around the world and highlight the role of translators in making classic works such as The Adventures of Tintin to Pippi Longstocking more widely available.

Today's author, Jane Vejjajiva (sister of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva), has translated Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire into Thai.

Sixty per cent of Thai children's books are imported, she explains, and there are very few Thai novels for children: picture-book editions of traditional tales and textbooks dominate.

Ms Vejjajiva's first children's novel, The Happiness of Kati, has sold 300,000 copies in Thailand ("2,000 or 3,000 is more usual for a children's novel," she says) and been made into a film.

Translated into 23 languages, including English, it is a story of a family in crisis. But it also takes in daily life in Thailand through tastes, sounds and smells: hence the displays at the BA centre.

The Hounslow Town pupils really have stepped off a plane to meet Ms Vejjajiva: like all the 7,000 pupils a year who visit the centre (which is free to schools), they started their visit with a simulated flight in a reconstructed BA cabin.

Richard Cuell, Hounslow Town Y5 teacher, said: "A visit like this is valuable for geography and speaking and listening as well as the obvious interest of the book, which some of the children have been able to read in advance.

"For some of our pupils, being on a plane is a new experience too, although many have family abroad."

Further details: community1.Learning@ba.com


`The Happiness of Kati' is published by Allen amp; Unwin.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today