Adventures with Waffles
Written by Maria Parr
Illustrated by Kate Forrester
Translated by Guy Puzey
Candlewick Press, 2015, 240 pp.
Those who love Pippi Longstocking will be enamored with the young heroine of Adventures with Waffles. Lena is the female half of an adventure-seeking duo in the small Norwegian village of Mathildewick Cove. She is Trille’s best friend, although Trill often wonders if he is her best friend. Both children are nine-years-old, yet Lena is the source and inspiration behind the duo’s pranks and adventures, including creating and using a ropeway between their houses and jumping over the main road on the sled–their two safest adventures. These escapades, along with others, however, quite often include concussions and backside pains. But they will also delight readers!
Living on a small island off the shore of Norway connected to the mainland only by ferry, Lena and Trille create a kingdom that will hold them forever. Trille has a large family: his two parents, his Grandpa, and his three siblings. Lena lives next door with her mother, who is an artist and a cashier at the local store. On the island, however, is also Auntie Granny, Grandpa’s older sister, a substitute grandmother for the children. She is the one who makes waffles, and “Auntie Granny’s waffles really are the best in the world, seriously.” (p. 19).
One day the two friends decide to build Noah’s Shark (an improved version of Noah’s Ark; a shark is a Norwegian fishing boat). They collect available animals to bring on board–insects in the glass jars in twos (even though it is very difficult to find who is she and who is he in the bumblebees), two rabbits, a hen and a rooster, one big fat cat (so big that he can count as two), a goat and… a moody “adolescent” cow. As anyone can imagine, a major disaster follows. Their next big project is to find a father for Lena. Fathers are very important, “they eat boiled cabbage” (p. 45), and boiled carrots too. Amazingly, this project ends up nicely. The doctor who constantly needs to treat Lena after her multiple dangerous adventures falls in love with her mom, and Lena happily says “yes” to his marriage proposal.
Yet, some adventures are of the heart, and not everything is that simple in the “kingdom.” Auntie Granny dies, and Trille starts thinking about the meaning of life and death. Soon afterwards, Lena and her mother move to town, and Trille is so sad that he stops enjoying the most beautiful snow days and his favorite foods. But all’s well that ends well. While Lena may have a new father, she will also get to stay on the island with Trille’s family until her mom and her new husband return from their honeymoon. Trille learns how to make wonderful Waffle Hearts that he can make almost as well as Auntie Granny used to do since he needs to cheer up his Grandpa who is missing his sister.
The book may be paired with Astrid Lindgren’s Seacrow Island (2015) and with Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy (2007) and other books from the The Penderwicks Series.
Maria Parr’s Adventures with Waffles was originally published in 2003. In 2009 she published her second book for children, Tonje Glimmerdal, for which she won the 2009 Brage Prize, a Norwegian literary prize. Maria Parr has been named by many as a new Astrid Lindgren, a high level of approval for European children’s literature.
Adventures with Waffles is beautifully translated into English by Guy Puzey, a translator of Norwegian literature from Edinburgh, and illustrated by a British artist Kate Forrester.
Olga Bukhina, International Association for the Humanities, New York City, NY