S4L Book Club – Garmann’s Summer and Garmann’s Street

Our discussion leader in September is Harriet. She’s a very creative embroiderer, knitter, painter, and photographer, among other things. She loves shibas and books. She lives in Norway, and English is her second language. She communicates very well without my help, and the regulars here enjoy her “voice,” so I won’t be editing. Much. Just my usual butting in and puttering about.

More from an old interview in a newspaper:

The books about Garmann do not contain common children’s ethics: they are full of existential anxiety. A foreign journalist (not Norwegian, that is) stated that Stian Hole projects his anxiety on the children and that they should be spared this. Several countries have an attitude that children’s books should be soft and careful in their themes and style. Stian Hole does not agree. He says that it is about restfulness, as well as existential anxiety, and that a lot of children recognize this in the books. Stian Hole says that the stories often have a grown-up nearby and that picture books are a good opportunity to get closer to difficult issues in a cautious manner.

Stian Hole is not satisfied that his books have been labeled “dark.” He says that his books about Garmann contain lighter tones and themes.

What do you think about the content of these two books? Are they too dark or are they well balanced? Is it ok that the first book, Garmann’s Summer, does not give any solution to Garmann’s problem? The next morning he goes to the first day at school, and he is anxious about it. A country refused the book because of this!

Categories: Reading

2 replies »

  1. Look in the blog post for 13th September. I commented about “A certain philosophy in life”. My comment also fit the question on this post.

    I do not find the books very well balanced. I think they show that it is hard to meet your challenges, small or great, and without any guaranties for what will happen or what the result may be.

    They do show the reader a problematic situation without offering the great solution. But that does not mean the books are without hope, sensitivity and good things.
    I like this in a book. I also like to have everything turn ok, fixed and happily ever after. But sometimes the consequence of an episode is not happily but simply quite well.

    Is it that books have to present the ideal world? Will it really scare children to learn to reflect on “reality”, everyday situations? Maybe anxious children need to see that others can be anxious to, and even anxious about different things. And that it is ok, and that you can go on doing things.

    But ok, it is rather gloomy or on the dull side of life, this one, I still love it, though:
    When Garmann is picking flower petals and the postman is playing cards, the postman says: *There will always be calculation that will not have any solutinons.*

  2. I think I disagree. I find the books balanced just fine. For instance, I think the bad neighbor boy is more than balanced by the old neighbor who turns out to be kind and understanding. In Garmann’s Summer, Garmann is anxious about school which is kind of dark, but then he discovers Aunt Ruth is anxious about winter, making Garmann’s anxiety seem normal. This is a bright notion that balances the dark one. He’s anxious, but anxiety is normal, everyone deals with it. There’s comfort in discovering that.

    I also think the books offer a solution to the problem; in fact, I think they offer the *only* solution to the problem: Garmann is anxious about going to school, but he gets up in the morning and goes anyway. That is the solution to the problem, and, I think, the only one! When Garmann starts the fire, it scares him, but unlike the Bad Boy, he doesn’t run away. He faces his anxiety head on and deals with it as best he can.

    We’re all anxious about things now and then, and the only thing to do about it is to take a deep breath and proceed in spite of our anxiety. To not do that, to give in to our anxiety and avoid the situation, is to make everything worse.

    It may not be an easy solution, but it is a solution.