Kätlin Vainola. “Naa in Paris”

Reading sample

[pp 5–8]

Naa in Paris

Naa was lying in the backpack, thrumming his toes in delight. That was something only he knew how to do. It’s pretty hard to describe how it worked. In any case, he could feel the thrumming inside himself clearly.

He was so happy that Daniel had finally been allowed to take him along.

“Let’s have your dog wait for you in the hotel,” Mom had proposed at first.

“He could get lost, you know,” Dad said.

But Daniel held on to Naa tightly. And the stuffed animal looked up with giant, pleading eyes. So, the two of them managed to talk Daniel’s parents into letting Naa stay in the boy’s backpack on their tour of the city.

With that, their first day in Paris could begin! Naa was overjoyed that Mom had brought them to this famous city. Mom had taken French language classes all winter long, and now, she wanted to show the whole family the capital of that beautiful country.

At first, the stuffed dog sat nice and still in the backpack, but soon, he became curious. He snuffled the zipper open just a tiny bit and peeked out with one eye. The open air of Paris swept over Naa’s face, and he chirped the zipper opening even wider.

What he saw blew him away. It was the most beautiful city in the world! It couldn’t outdo their hometown, of course, because Naa loved home more than anything. Still, now wasn’t the time to think about that. Naa devoured all the sights and sounds. As he did so, he thrummed his toes endlessly and craned his neck out even farther.

Then came a sudden bang. Daniel had been staring up into the sky, and walked into a post. He stumbled, and fell.


The fall

Naa nearly fainted. He had no idea what was going on. The world spun around him until there was a loud thud. Suddenly, he was lying flat on the sidewalk and his family was simply continuing on their way, not suspecting a thing.

He looked up and glimpsed the backpack he’d been in just a moment earlier. Its gaping smile merely stared back at him.

Naa quickly got to his feet.

“Daniel! Daniel, wait! Wait! I fell down! I’m here!” he shouted as loud as he could.

Yet, hundreds of people were bustling down the sidewalk, motorcycles were roaring down the street, and no one could hear him. Daniel was holding his parents’ hands and walking farther and farther away. Soon, all three of them disappeared into the crowd.

Naa hurried over to the side of a large building, because it was awfully dangerous to be standing in the middle of the sidewalk. There, there was a horde of feet tramping carelessly this way and that. In spite of his fear, Naa noticed the shoes. All the feet were wearing shoes, and all the shoes were different from one another. There were feet with black men’s shoes, women’s feet with high-heeled shoes, children’s feet with red boots, and all kinds of others.

Naa pressed himself back against the wall of the building. He looked one way. There was a street café with green tables and chairs. He looked the other way, and saw an artist painting the river.

Suddenly, Naa heard a creaking sound by the wall, and a very dirty stuffed bear stepped out from behind the gutter. Naa froze in fear, as still as a statue.


[pp 12–13]

Candy and rain

“Careful! Look out!” Bummi shouted.

Before he could move a muscle, Naa got a solid bonk on the head. Ow! Something else struck his paw and his leg.

It was as if someone were bombing them.

“It’s candy! These are bonbons – my favorite!” Bummi squealed. “Someone dropped a bag of candy out the window! Today’s our lucky day!”

Bummi snatched a tiny basket from in front of his house and gathered up all the colorful sweets at lightning speed. Naa helped out a little by putting a couple bonbons in the basket, too.

“You see how nice it is to live here? You get free sweets!” said Bummi in satisfaction after they’d collected all the bonbons.

He popped a candy into his mouth, and offered one to Naa as well.

“No, thanks!” Naa politely declined. “I don’t eat things that are picked up from the ground.”

Bummi shrugged and stuck another into his mouth.

All of a sudden, Naa felt something drip onto his nose. Then came a second and a third drop, and a steady rain started to fall.

“Finally, I can wash up!” Bummi cheered, and rushed into his little house.

He returned carrying a bottle of shampoo and a towel.

“You go inside, I’m going to take a little shower,” he said somewhat sheepishly.

Naa went inside, sat down in a wicker chair, and started checking out his surroundings.


[pp 39–40]

The strange apartment

The Paris subway train sped on for several more stops. The madam got off at a place where the train emerged from underground and stopped at street-level.

Her home was in a large white building with a green door. Naa noticed that the door was very big and heavy. He wouldn’t be able to push it open all by himself.

They took the elevator to the fifth floor. The apartment door was also extremely hard to open. It was dark red with a golden doorknob, and it shut behind them very quietly, but very forcefully.

The apartment was dim, and resembled a cave. There was something hanging from the walls in every direction, coming down from the ceiling and resting on the floor.

The madam switched on a lamp, making the entryway somewhat brighter. Now, Naa could see they were in a place that looked like the junk room of an old castle. Every nook and cranny was packed with fancy pieces of furniture, picture frames, rolled-up rugs, flower vases, wall lamps, and even big stone sculptures of naked people. Still, these objects weren’t arranged nicely at all. They were strewn about helter-skelter and covered in a thick layer of dust.

The madam switched her high-heeled shoes for a pair of pale blue booties, and headed towards the back of the apartment with Naa in tow.

She opened the door to a room, and Naa couldn’t believe his eyes. The space was painted white, and was much better-organized than the entryway. It was filled from end to end with row upon row of shelves.

But the shelves themselves were piled high with dogs! There were all kinds of different toy dogs that were lying, sitting, standing, or hanging. Their eyes were glassy and dull.

Translated by Adam Cullen