Literature Review: The Noisy Classroom

Līga Horgana is back with another literature review, this time Ieva Flamingo's Skaļā klase, translated into English as The Noisy Classroom by Žanete Vēvere Pasqualini, Sara Smith and Richard O’Brien.


Since September in Latvia has been a month of poetry for more than 50 years, this time I decided to write a review of a very nice, bright and vivid poetry book called The Noisy Classroom (Skaļā klase in Latvian) by well-known children’s author Ieva Flamingo (Samauska). The poems are illustrated by newcomer artist Vivianna Maria Staņslavska, and translation work for the English edition was done by Žanete Vēvere Pasqualini, Sara Smith and Richard O’Brien. The book was published by The Emma Press in 2017. 

The Noisy Classroom contains 40 poems that depict the lives of middle school students with different happy, joyful and funny moments as well as all duties and restrictions. It is a great reminder for adults that our school years were not always a happy and careless time as we sometimes tend to remember them. 

School wants me to be like a calculator – 
to come, to go, to do things now – not later. 

School wants me to succeed at every test, 
learn all the answers, or at least to guess. 

School wants my mind to rival God’s perfection, 
and never let mistakes escape detection. 

School wants and wants, sends class alerts all day: 
School doesn’t ask how I feel today. (1)

Although fitting in with other classmates and completing assignments are important parts of students’ lives, they are hardly the only ones. The author has drawn attention to teenagers’ personal issues – their complicated family situations such as poverty or divorce of parents, as well as their loneliness in the world of social networks and modern technologies. 

Skaļā klase was artist’s Vivianna Maria Staņslavska’s award-winning debut in children’s literature. This book turned out to be a great cooperation between the writer and the illustrator. In fact, the illustrator herself invented the six different middle school student characters described on the front and back inside covers, whose voices we hear throughout the poetry collection. The reader will definitely spend some time exploring the eye-catchingly bright and contrasting illustrations that encapsulate the rush and messiness of life in school, and quite precisely embodies the feelings of the characters – their peacefulness, sadness, worries, happiness etc. Describing her work, the artist said that: 

Such a chaotic style of illustration is probably not the most typical one for a first book, but in a sense, I did what I saw was suitable for The Noisy Class. Racket, mess, and colours of a lined exercise book (blue and red) is what I had associations with when I read it. (3)

At the end of the book the reader can learn some school-related Latvian words and find out more about the writer, illustrator and translators.  

The back cover of “The Noisy Classroom” recommends these poems for children ages 8+, which seems appropriate since I think that younger kids might not understand the message included in the work. I cannot describe the book better than real-life teacher Ance Jaks did on the back cover of the Latvian edition: 

In this poetry book, the student will read their own words, the parents will hear the worries of their child, the teachers will see the thoughts of their student... (2)

Being a middle school teacher in a “noisy classroom” myself, I definitely saw some parallels between my own students and those in the book making their ways through the busy everyday life of school. I enjoyed this book, and I believe there are many other young and old readers who would like it too.

  1. Flamingo, I., Staņislavska, V. M., Pasqualini, Z. V., Smith, S., & O'Brien, R. (2017). The Noisy Classroom. Birmingham, UK: The Emma Press.
  2. Samauska, I., & Staņislavska, V. M. (2015). Skaļā klase. Rīga: Petergailis.
  3. Vivianna Maria Staņislavska: My future plan is to be happy. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2020, from http://latvianliterature.lv/en/news/vivianna-maria-stanislavska-my-future-plan-is-to-be-happy

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