Ella Frances Sanders’s first book, Lost in Translation, captured the imagination of readers with its charmingly illustrated words that have no direct English translation. Now, the New York Times-bestselling author is back with an illustrated collection that addresses the nuances of language in the form of sayings from around the world. From the French idiom “to pedal in the sauerkraut,” (i.e., “to spin your wheels,”) to the Japanese idiom “even monkeys fall from trees” (meaning, “even experts can be wrong”), Sanders presents sayings that reveal the remarkable diversity, humor, and poignancy of the world’s languages and cultures.
I haven’t traveled a whole lot, but I want to. And in an ideal world, I’m the kind of person who would rather take two or three weeks and rent an Airbnb and shop at the local market and cook my own food — live in a place for awhile rather than tour it as a viewer. But this is not an ideal world — who has the time or money for that? Luckily, I found this book, which is probably as close as I will get to living in many foreign cultures.
The Illustrated Book of Sayings is both a brief and an intimate look at 52 cultures from around the world. Sanders picks an idiom from a language, and spends around 150 words explaining the meaning, and where it comes from. Whimsical illustrations accompany each idiom. If this sounds at all boring or dry, I’m doing a bad job of explaining. Sanders dips her toe into linguistics (which as a word nerd, I loved), but also relates the idiom to some idiosyncrasy of the people who use it. It makes you feel like you’re in that country for a moment, chatting with the natives.
Plus, wordy facts aren’t all you get. Many idioms are animal related, and Sanders seems to enjoy adding animal facts along with her explanations. For example, did you know that “one of the largest members of the pelican family — the Dalmatian pelican — lives in Denmark”?
Sanders’ explanations are as informative as they are quirky. And if you just really, really hate reading, you can at least have a fun time looking at the illustrations. This is a great book to keep on the coffee table to flip through on the days you are too broke to buy a plane ticket.
I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books for free in exchange for this honest review.