Monday 31 July 2017

See you when I see you

See you when I see you by Rose Lagercrantz, Illustrated by Eva Eriksson
(Gecko Press) PB RRP $15.99   ISBN 9781776571307

Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Rose Lagercrantz is a popular Swedish author of books for children as well as adults. She has received many of the top Swedish literary awards, including the August Prize and the Astrid Lindgren Prize. Eva Eriksson is one of the world’s great illustrators. She has been nominated for the Hans Christian Anderson and other international awards.

See you when I see you is a beautifully illustrated chapter book for children aged 5 to 7.  The quality of the physical book is stunning with a heavy, semi-Matt cover and a good thick presentation which gives this age group the feel of a novella. The large print makes it easy to read and allows for a plethora of illustrations on almost every page. Erickson’s black-and-white sketches are full of emotion, action and character. She brings the characters to life, showing how they relate to each other with eye contact and facial expressions. It is obvious from the affectionate detail of these illustrations that Eriksson was in love with this story. The sheer joy on the faces of children on page 74 – 75 bear testament to this.

Set in Sweden, the story provides a unique snapshot into the life of Swedish children, showing the style of their particular houses and streets as well as indigenous animals such as moose. The names of the children are highly accessible to English-speaking speaking readers – Ella, Dani, Vicki, Mickey but with Swedish place names such as Solna and Skansen adding interest.

The central friendship between Ella and Dani (Daniela) is beautifully told, through the ups and downs, mistakes and misunderstandings and the affection and commitment they have to each other.

The teacher didn’t seem to be angry any more.
“And I thought you were making things up!” was all she said. “There’s still a lot for an old fox to learn.”
“Fox?” Dani looked at her.
“So they say,” answered the teacher.
Dani nodded.
It wasn’t always clear what people meant. But one thing was clear: Ella wasn’t happy. Ella was sad. And Dani was sad too.

Themes of loss and misunderstanding run like a thread through this story, adding a sense of desperation when Ella moves away and Dani’s mother dies. Dani misunderstands her father’s intentions when he falls in love again after losing his wife. Dani’s father misunderstands her friendship with Ella when Dani refuses to have a close relationship with any other children in her class. He doesn’t seem to realise his newfound love is a source of pain for his daughter. Ella’s class teacher misunderstands her need to reconnect with her old friend. Ella herself misunderstands when she realises the treasure the two girls buried is gone not knowing Dani has collected it. She is convinced the friendship is “in jeopardy.”

What is lovely about this story is the natural and very open way it shows conflict in a family in periods of stress. With the death of her mother Dani struggles to cope with the children in her class teasing her and her father’s newfound love. Her friend Ella moving away was the last straw, so finding Ella again on a class trip to the zoo and re-establishing that connection is extremely important to her sense of happiness and well-being. Eventually the adults in her life figure this out too.

Everyone wants a best friend. Everyone has high expectations of that friendship. But sometimes life interferes with what we want and perhaps that is the overall message of this book - when things fall apart there will be someone in your life who understands and is there for you, but you must communicate and trust them with your heart.

The only criticism I have of this book is the complexity of some of the vocabulary used in the text, perhaps due to it being a translation from Swedish. Some of the words are above a seven-year-old’s reading vocabulary, such as knowingly, hurried, meringue, quietened, hesitated. Therefore I would put the independent reading age of this book higher, 8 years+. It would still be a lovely book to read to a young child from age 6 years and up.

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