Today, I am reviewing three beautiful hardcover books available from the University of Minnesota Press. You may recall that back in November I reviewed another one of their lovely books, The Troll With No Heart in His Body. I admit that it is unusual to think of a university press printing children’s books, but if they are going to be this high quality and gorgeous, I say keep printing them! All three of the books I will be reviewing are by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire, and they fall under the category of Scandinavian children’s literature. Like me, you probably know the author-illustrators from their mythology books, but they wrote so much more than that. With this post, I hope to share with you some of their lesser known books.
Apart from their tales on mythology, Leif the Lucky is one of my favorite D’Aulaire tale. The book begins by telling us about Erik the Red and his three sons – Torstein, Torvald, and Leif. When Leif was a young boy, Erik the Red took a boat to a new land that he had “discovered.” Along with 24 chieftains in 24 boats crammed with people, cattle, and food, they had to battle harsh weather on the sea. Not all the ships made the trek successfully. Some of them sank, and others turned around out of fright. In the end, Erik’s boat made it with thirteen other chiefs. The land they “discovered” was Greenland. We then read of Leif growing up, travelling to Norway, and “discovering” America, which he dubbed Vinland. There are tales of Leif sending people to Vinland for commerce and tales of Leif converting his mother and people in Greenland to Christianity. All of this is very interesting and fascinating to read, because it reads like a saga or mini-epic. Apart from the story, which has a nice blend of history and legend, the make-up of this book is what makes the book. For starters, it is a 9 x 12 hardcover with a dust jacket. The illustrations make up two-page spreads, with each spread alternating between color and black and white. The pages even have an old-timey look and feel to them, which matches the illustrations perfectly. I know this is a book that I will read often to my son, and I think it would make a great addition for any parent who homeschools as well.
Ola is similar in construction to Leif the Lucky. It is a 9 x 12 hardcover with dust jacket with illustrations alternating between color and black and white. Unlike Leif the Lucky, whose subject was an actual historical figure, Ola is the fictional tale of a young Norwegian boy who goes on many adventures. The adventures start with Ola skiing and simultaneously chasing a rabbit. He wrecks on his skis and lands in a tree, where he meets a group of girls who take him to a wedding party. From there he joins a peddler of wares, who puts him on a fishing boat. On this fishing boat, he learns local legends about why codfish have beards and what makes a maelstrom. Eventually, he realizes that while his adventures were fun, he wants to go home. This was a cute story, and one that your children will find a treat to read. The Norwegian elements might be lost on them, but I love books that show your children places, cultures, and customs they might not otherwise get a chance to see.
Children of the Northlights is the story of two Sami children named Lise and Lasse. They are also referred to as Lapps in the book. Sami people or Lapps are indigenous to Scandinavia in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. This book is based on the actual travels of Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire to the land of the Sami. In this tale, Lise and Lasse, are children who think they live at the top of the world, and they aren’t too far from the truth. We see them getting into mischievous events, like racing reindeer or dressing up as a bear and scaring people. We also see day to day events, like them going to school or getting clean in a sauna. Like other D’Aulaire books available from the University of Minnesota Press the pages alternate between color and black and white. This publisher has done a wonderful job of making classic works like these available to readers again. Being in a hardcover means, they will stand up to many readings. The size of these books also helps illuminate the illustrations and introduce these wonderful stories to a new generation. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
These books were provided to me for free by the University of Minnesota Press in exchange for an honest review.
Copyright 2015 Stuart Dunn