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Rationale - Re-telling - Translation - Activities - Reflection

Country: Belgium
Language: Flemish (also published in English)
Title: Lotje is jarig (Lotje's Birthday)
Author: Baeten L.
Publisher: Clavis (1996)
ISBN: 90 6822 293 7
Chosen by: Annemie Leysen,
Katholieke Hogeschool, Departement Lerarenopleiding, Heilig Hart Heverlee, Naamsesteenweg 355, Leuven, Belgium.

Rationale for Choice:
This book has been chosen because it has been written/illustrated by a Flemish author and, although it represents a world full of magic, it also reflects the cosiness of Flemish homes and everyday life. Witches have always been a popular ingredient of Flemish children's literature.

Lotje would very much like to conjure up a cake for her birthday, but that doesn't seem to work, so she gets one at the witches' shop. When she comes home, she cannot find her cat, so she flies back to the village to find it. She goes to the grocer's, to the shoe witch and to the animal witch, but the cat seems to have disappeared. Lotje is very sad at the thought of a lonely birthday-party without her cat but, when she gets home, she finds all the witches at her house... they have prepared a splendid surprise birthday for her. Lotje waves her magic wand...and her cat is back. What a party!

Picture 1: It was Lotje's birthday. 'Happy Birthday to me,' she sang  on her way home. '
She had just been to the Witches' Store to buy a cake because her magic spell hadn't worked. In fact, when she waved her wand and said the magic words: 'Hocus-pocus, pudding and pie, make me a cake in the blink of an eye!' no cake had appeared. 'Come on, Poes', she called to her cat as she flew off.         
Picture 2: When she got home, she set the table, just in case anybody was going to visit her. She unpacked the cake and the big bottle of orange witches' brew (Poes' favourite drink!). 'There, she said, doesn't it look grand! Poes, where are you? She looked under the table and in all of Poes' favourite hiding places. 'Maybe he stayed in the store,' she thought. I'll simply have to fly back there and have a look.'
Picture 3: Poes loved to go to the store. Witches are very fond of cats, and the Witches' Store had a special section with cat food, cat toys and cat treats.
Picture 4: Poes and his friends liked to play in the store whilst their witches shopped.
Picture 5: 'Hello,' called Lotje. Have any of you seen Poes? I can't find him and I want to show him my birthday cake.'
Picture 6: 'Oh dear, Lotje' answered the Witches' Store witch. I haven't seen your cat. He's not here. And we can't help you to look at the moment.
Picture 7: Lotje decided to try the Nearly New shop.       
Picture 8: Poes loved to sleep high up on the shelves.
Picture 9: 'Hallo', said. 'Has anyone seen Poes? I've been looking for him everywhere'.
Picture 10: 'No, Lotje', answered the witch-shopkeeper. We haven't seen your cat, and we can't help you look at the moment.
Picture 11: "Maybe Poes went to the pet store," thought Lotje.
Picture 12: The Pet Store Witch sometimes let him play with her rabbits and turtle.
Picture 13: 'Hallo!' said Lotje to the chief witch. 'I have lost Poes. Have you seen him?'
Picture 14: 'No, Lotje', answered the witch. 'I have not seen your cat. I wish I could help you, but it's time for our music class.'
Picture 15: 'Where can Poes be? I've looked everywhere,' Lotje said to herself. ' I hope he has gone home, because I don't know where else to look.'
Picture 16: She rested awhile in her thinking place, trying to think where Poes could be.
Picture 17: As she flew towards her house, Lotje wondered if Poes would be there.
Picture 18: It's very unusual for Poes not to be at home. I've got such a lovely round cake to share with him.
Picture 19: In the house all is quiet... Poes is not there.
Picture 22: 'Oh,' cried Lotje, 'what a surprise! How wonderful! If only Poes were here, everything would be perfect!'
              'You're a witch, why not use a spell to find him?' shouted one of the witches.
              'Silly me,' Lotje laughed
              'Hocus-Pocus, Poes, hear!
              I'll wave my wand and you will appear!'
Picture 20: She waved her wand. "Theodore! I'm glad to see you." Everyone had a wonderful time at the party. The cake was delicious and Lotje loved all her presents, but the very best present was THEODORE.  "Theodore," Lotje whispered, "where were you? I was worried." Theodore purred and licked his face. He wasn't going to tell!

NB This is a working translation for educational purpose only.

Activities for use in school:
This picture book presents a world of magic in a familiar setting. Many young children will be able to identify with Lotje, the young witch in the story, as her behaviour is quite plausible and not unlike children in most European countries.
THE BRT (Belgian Television) televised this book and it is available on video tape.
1. As the pictures in the book are very detailed, children should be able to look closely at them and talk about what they see. Small elements of each picture could be photocopied and the children might associate them with corresponding situations in their own lives. They could then discuss these similarities and differences and  put these on a chart in the classroom.
2. The children might like to guess what the parcels contain - the shapes should give some indication Also, a closer look at the activities of the witches that Lotje visits should help them to find out. After this, the children, in pairs, could write descriptions of unusual objects/presents which they have received. These could then be guessed by other members of the class and maybe put into a class 'Riddles' book.
3. The contrast between light and dark (inside/outside) plays a major part in this book. You might like to develop this theme by looking at the contrasting language which can be used for each.
4. As there are a number of characters and situations in the story, it could be dramatised and developed to link with a theme about witches and magic.
5. In order to make linguistic comparisons, children can compare the Flemish text with the English translation. Some pages have an almost direct translation (eg p.13), and it is possible to detect similarities between the languages, whilst others (eg p.21) are completely different. Why might this be?

Reflection: Are birthdays universal? Possibly consider countries which celebrate saints' days, too. eg France and Spain.

NB Further literature and language-based activities can be found in
Picture Books sans Frontières
available from or

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ncrcl November 2004