Heirloom Book Review: Scandinavian Reads for Young and Old
Summers are always so full. At our house the constant is reading. We read on our own, as a family, one on one, on the grass, in a hammock, and in bed. Undaunted by word count we tackle all kinds of books and are rarely disappointed. However, occasionally a book comes along that changes the shape of your soul and forms memories that are bound to last. This summer we found three.
The kids (boy age 8, girl age 5) and I have fallen head over heals for Scandinavian fiction. Compelled by our travels, good book covers, and a general theme around us these days we found ourselves immersed in a simple, magical summer read-a-thon enhanced by imagined sea breezes and real life (albeit miniature scale) seaside cottages.
I wouldn’t dare spoil a thing from these books but let me tell you a bit about our process so you might see where the magic has slipped in and perhaps replicate elements yourself in your own way.
I grabbed this book one day just because. Occasionally (or rather quite frequently) taking home a book from work has made me quite popular. I didn’t hesitate because this book is part of series of books I have come to trust and respect. Relatively unknown the New York Review Children’s Collection is robust and full of books with moral spine and delightful character. They also happen to be hard bound with a red cloth spine which means they are well made, will last generations (assuming you don’t leave them in the grass to get soaked by the sprinklers in the morning…oops) and they look great on a shelf.
I also like reading about old craft and so I often find children’s books that have a weaver, a shipbuilder, or in this case a glassblower. So, author unknown, we opened up and started reading. I immediately was hooked by the description of the glassblower himself and his effort to sell his wares. The kids were hooked a few pages later, first by the little witch with a delightful name and her one-eyed raven.
Mysteries begin to unfold in a Hansel and Gretel-esque manner as adults and children learn lessons about gratitude, selflessness, the importance of preserving wishes and dreams, and optimism. Part of the magic came when we couldn’t put the book down at the end and stayed up hours past their bedtime and long past my own. That was the moment the memories were made. The book has a delightfully mysterious conclusion that enchanted my children.
I don’t even know where to start. This book swept us away and we fell in love with the setting, the characters, the true to life magic simplicity. We joined the Melkerson family for a summer and more that we won’t quickly forget.
Parts of the book are taken directly from the 19-year-old daughter, Malin’s diary. There are chapters about the adults, the young children and the teenagers interwoven in a delightfully ageless way. We all laughed till we cried, and cried until we laughed. We loved meeting Tjorven, a native islander, and were excited any time she entered the scene. Astrid introduces Tjorven as the family first arrives on the island in a picturesque moment of anticipation.
“It was pouring rain when the steamer arrived, and on the quay stood one solitary little person and a dog. This person was female and about seven years old. She stood absolutely still as if she had grown up out of the quay. The rain poured down on her but she did not move. It seemed almost as if God had made her as part of the island…and had put her there to be the ruler and guardian of the island to all eternity.”
We still talk about Tjorven a month or so later as a dear friend we spent a summer with. Toward the end of the book I remembered a Lincoln log-esque toy I had seen from France. It was a little Scandinavian summer cabin and I couldn’t help but get one to help us finish off the book and to keep a tangible memory of Seacrow Island. The kids built it as we finished the book’s last chapters. We brought a few into the store in case you want to follow suit. I highly recommend making the memories tangible.
I have made numerous people pause to read this book and all have left delighted. It is hard to find books that delight both parents and children and create links and connections for memories to form and be preserved. I hope by sharing our experience it will aid you in cultivating one that fits your family.
Another wonderful story that kept us all intrigued. For this one I may have been the one who enjoyed it most as a heartfelt and tender allegory of Jesus Christ. I learned things about the relationship between God and His Son that I hadn’t grasped before. I recommend it as a short read to extend imagination in the young and cultivate godliness in adults.
We believe in reading together as a family.
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