Thursday, August 13, 2009

The many lives of Mona Minim

Photo: David de Jong

Mona Minim and the smell of the sun is the only children's book Janet Frame published in her lifetime.

It was first published by George Braziller and was listed by the New York Times as one of the 10 best children's books for 1969.

Since then this very Framean fable has had many publishing cycles, several translations, and various different artists have tried their hand at the project of 'anthromorphising' Mona and her friends, for illustrated editions.

As with all classics of children's literature, Mona Minim has attracted an adult readership too. Although written as a children's story, it has also been published in the UK (by Bloomsbury) and New Zealand (by Vintage) in text-only versions aimed at older children and adult readers.

Mona Minim is still going strong. The prizewinning 2005 Random House NZ edition (illustrated by David Elliot) continues to be reprinted and to attract new readers.

And little Mona, the brave house ant who longs for adventure and gets her wish for it, is soon to have an outing in Dutch theatres, presented as a children's musical theatre performance by NIKI ROMIJN under the title HOE RUIKT DE ZON (which means, I think, "What is the Smell of the Sun?")

Lovely. Janet would have been thrilled. This book was dear to her heart. She was quoted as saying it was her favourite book. (But to be fair, I think her favourite book was always the one she had written most recently!)

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