Sunday, October 25, 2015

The girl who bought mischief by Katrina Nannestad

This book has been in our school library for nearly two years and the cover has intrigued me but it has taken me until this weekend to pick it up.  Have you guessed what I am going to say?  Yes it is another of those amazing books that I just devoured in one sitting.

I am not sure how to express this with out offending the author or publisher but reading this book you will have no idea it is Australian or associate the author with her other books Red Dirt Diaries.  This books feels so European.

Inge Maria goes to live with her stern grandmother on a remote island in Denmark.  Her father has died and while we are not told until the end, Inge has also suffered another huge loss.  Life in Bornholm is completely different to the one she loved in Copenhagen.  Living with her grandmother Inge has to learn farm duties such as milking cows, tending pigs and collecting eggs.  Bath time involves so much vigorous scrubbing Inge thinks she has lost a layer of skin. She also has to help with enormous quantities of hand washing and wringing.

"Saturday is washing day.  We build a blazing fire in the kitchen and boil post of laundry as though we are going to make stocking soup, bed-linen stew and bonnet broth.  I have never done laundry before.  Mama always sent ours away ... It would return in brown paper parcels tied up with string, clean and pressed like magic. 
...When it is time to wring the water out of the bed linen we go outside into the chilly morning air.  Grabbing opposite ends of a sheet, we twist it around and around until it is a short thick rope and all of the water has been squeezed out onto the ground."

But the most heart-breaking thing is she has to cope with the little rural school and its archaic rules about silence, spelling and a segregated playground. Luckily in this same school Inge makes a truly special friend - a boy called Klaus.

Through all of this Inge must try hard to stay out of mischief but it seems no matter how hard she tries mischief catches her unawares.

Now we come to why I loved this book.  The story here is about reactions.  There were so many times during this story that I just gasped - how would her grandmother or another adult react to each catastrophe?

Inge - Half her hair is eaten off by the goat who is also on the little boat taking her to Bornholm
Grandmother could:
1.  Scold
2.  Cut off the rest of her hair
3.  Knit Inge a new hat

The answer is 3.  "Grandmother surprises me by pulling a red woollen hat down on my head. I run to the mirror by the door and laugh at the thick, floppy folds topped by the biggest pom-pom I have ever seen."

Inge - is given a tiny slither of cake so thin you can almost see through it.  She is starving hours later when they finally leave Angelina's house
Grandmother could:
1.  Scold Inge for her ungrateful attitude
2.  Ignore Inge and briskly walk home
3.  Reach into her pocket and pull out ...

The answer is 3.  "Grandmother pulls a parcel from her pocket.  She unwraps brown paper and hands me a thick wedge of cheese and an apple."

I also loved the way little Inge's personality shone through in the writing.  When she sees a beautiful spoon or a pretty teapot she thanks them for giving her pleasure.  I truly want to meet Inge and be her friend.

You might like to read this review.  Here is a video interview with the author filmed in the office of Harper Collins - make sure you look at the view from their office.  I was surprised to see I had missed this book when it was listed by the CBCA as a notable book for 2014.  If I had read it back then I would have predicted this book would reach the short-list (and receive a prize) but just like another fabulous book from that year The view from the 32nd floor, The girl who bought mischief didn't make the final six but it did win the NSW Premiers Award in 2014 thank goodness!  I heartily agree with the judges report.

After reading this book an older student might enjoy West of the Moon by Margi Preus (not suitable for Middle Primary).  This book also reminded me of Waffle Hearts.  You can read more about Katrina Nannestad here.

Before reading this book, which I guarantee you will enjoy, take a little time to reacquaint yourself with some of the classic Hans Christian Andersen stories which Inge reads such as The Princess and the Pea and The Emperors New Clothes.  You can read a sample of The girl who bought mischief if I have not yet convinced you to rush into a library and borrow this terrific book.   It is also available as an ebook.

Here is the US cover with a different title which will be released early in 2016.

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