CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 3 . . . . October 1, 2004
Astrid Svensson is five and three-quarters. Her best friend is Bjorn, her teddy, who climbs tree houses with her, helps her to shoo monsters from under the bed, and eats dinner at the table with her. They are inseparable.
When Astrid's grandfather in Sweden dies, her grandmother, Mormor, comes to live with them. Astrid is excited to think of Mormor living with them. "Mormor can play house with us....and pirates. And store. This will be fun."
But when Mormor arrives, it is not fun. Mormor is sad, inexplicably moody, and, worst of all, intolerant of Astrid's friendship with Bjorn. She thinks it wasteful that Bjorn gets his own place at the table. When Astrid climbs to the tree house with Bjorn, Mormor tells her not to put him in her mouth, saying he is "smutsig -- filthy."
In turn, Astrid lashes out at Mormor, wishing she to could join Morfar in heaven.
Astrid's parents ask her to be tolerant of Mormor, but this is beyond the five-year-old's abilities.
However, when Bjorn goes missing, it is Mormor who comes up with a kind solution that brings grandmother and granddaughter back together.
Mormor Moves In is a book about mourning, but it is more a book about compassion and tenderness -- about giving another the space to be themselves, even when you can't understand them. Nielsen-Fernlund's story has just the right touch as the story never becomes maudlin nor heavily didactic. In few words, she creates an emotional situation that rings true. At times, she simply lets Laliberté's whimsical colour pencil drawings tell the story for her. And they do so wonderfully. Astrid's emotions, so key to the story, come through in Laliberté's slightly stylized illustrations, picking up the story seamlessly where the words leave off.
In the dust jacket notes, Laliberté says that she was drawn to illustrate this book as she "liked the silence in it." It is a credit both to author and illustrator that there is silence, or rather, two kinds of silence: there is the silence needed for people to come to an understanding, as well as the silence that allows the reader to comprehend all that is going on behind the words.
Mormor Moves In is a lovely story of understanding triumphing over misunderstanding between generations. A little of Mormor should move in with all of us.
Liz Greenaway has worked in bookselling and publishing and now resides in Edmonton, AB.
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