Thursday, January 20, 2022

Hattie + Olaf

Hattie + Olaf  is an endearingly and warmly written tale of an 8 year old girl and an irascible donkey she gets instead of the horse she's been dreaming of. Originally published in Swedish in 2006, this English language translation was released 5th Oct 2021. It's 182 pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats.

This is the second English language translation book featuring Frida Nilsson's mischievous and rebellious 8 year old, Hattie. She begs for a horse and winds up with grumpy Olaf, a broken down maltreated donkey with a fearful and angry attitude instead. She finds it impossible to tell the truth to her classmates and her fabrications become more and more fantastic as the days pass. Inevitably, it all comes crashing down and Hattie has to try to clean up the mess. 

The book deals with quite a number of somber issues and has central plot themes revolving around bullying, friendship, family, death, relationships, trust, and the meaning of home. The book is set in Sweden and the relationships and settings in the book are very much Scandinavian in flavor. English language readers will probably find it curious that catechism is taught in secular schools, leading up to confirmation around age 15. This is normal for Scandinavia and is still the standard, however now the focus is comparative religion and students learn about other faiths and beliefs, not just Lutheranism (and not just with the intention to lead to confirmation at age 15). There's also mention of snuff use which was rampant among young people of both sexes in Scandinavia.

The simple pen and ink drawings by Stina Wirsén are whimsical and fluid, and add a lot to the story. The book is generously illustrated and there are numerous small drawings throughout. Despite being very simply rendered, many of them are full of small subtle details which invite a closer look. 

Four stars. This is a well done young reader chapter book and would make a good choice for public or school library acquisition, gift giving, school reading circle, or home library use.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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