Friday, July 29, 2022

Guy Friday- Trip to the Sea

Parr, Maria. Lena, Me, and the Sea
August 3rd 2021 by Candlewick Press (first published 2017)
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Trille and his best friend Lena are back after their Adventures with Waffles. Lena has just come back from vacation on Crete, and the two are making plans for the rest of their summer. Of course, there is a lot of sailing, sometimes with Trille's grandfather, who is a fisherman. There's also dreaded piano lessons, which neither of them enjoy, but which Trille is trying to pay attention to because he thinks his piano skills might impress fellow student Birgit, who is from the Netherlands. Trille and Lena also played soccer together in the past, but a new coach has made the experience less fun for Trille, and he drops out. He spends a lot of time hanging out with Birgit, hiking the hills around their coastal town of Mathildewick Cove. Trille's mother has been cranky and gaining weight, and Lena (who is very forthright in everything she does) informs him that his mother is going through menopause. Concerned, Trille talks to his mother and encourages her to go to the doctor. When she does, she finds out that she is pregnant with her fifth child! Trille wants to make his mother happy, but also wants to stay friends with Lena, who is always involved in some questionable stunt like stringing Trille's younger sister Krolla up in a tree (ala Lindgren's Emil and the Great Escape) or going Christmas caroling in the middle of a storm. Luckily, the community is supportive, and helps out when Lena gets her friends in a jam.

This was an interesting look at daily life in a Norwegian fishing community, and the scenes and goings on are described in such a way that I could see Trille's adventures in my mind's eye... although they appeared as they would have should Maj Lindman (of the Swedish Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka books) have illustrated them. Trille's family runs a farm, and while their life is hectic, it is also very stable. Lena, who is a force of nature akin to Pippi Longstocking, has a very young mother and a very new stepfather who is a doctor.

The really interesting part of this book was Trille and Lena's evolving friendship. Friendships are so key to middle grade readers, and it's interesting to see the two as they investigate their own separate identities. Lena isn't a fan of music, but Trille feels more drawn to the piano. He also doesn't feel the same way about soccer as avid player Lena does. They still have plenty in common, but they are apart enough that Trille starts to worry about their friendship. The way that Lena is the most central character, but is seen through Trille's eyes, reminded me a bit of the way we see Spinelli's Stargirl through the eyes of Leo.
I haven't seen a lot of titles translated from Nordic languages, but I'm always interested in seeing how people live in different parts of the world. This is somewhat similar to Rose Lagercrantz's My Happy Life
(which is set in Sweden) series, and would definitely be a great book to hand to a reader who has met and adores Astrid Lindgren's classic works.
I'll be sending this off to one of the elementary schools that already has Adventures with Waffles.

Giuliani, Emma. At the Sea
April 12th 2022 by Princeton Architectural Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Siblings Robin and Plum have a pleasant day at the beach planned. They head there with a kite and a pail, and along the way notice all of the flora and fauna they pass, from bunny tail grass to invasive ice plants. Once they get to the beach, and see shells, pebbles, and small creatures like clams and star fish that have been uncovered by the tide. When they go further to the port, they sea ships, sail boats, and seagulls. The two then board a boat, and the captain takes them to the Island of a Thousand Birds. He also teaches them about maritime safety and traditions like captain's logs and signal flags. From the boat, they can see many sea inhabitants like jellyfish, rays, and triggerfish. Once on the island, which is a protective sanctucary for birds, they get to travel to the top of a light house and see puffins, gannets, and seals sunning themselves on the rocks. Having been able to witness all of this beautiful, natural world, they think abou tthe ways in which people can protect these resources by studying the link between oceans and the climate, analyzing plastic pollution, observing plankton, and keeping track of the numbers of threatened animals.

This extremely large format (11.5"x 16") book has strikingly simple illustrations in bold colors, and a wealth of information about the beach environment. There is a big spread on the left hand side of the page giving an overview of the area where the children are underneath the few sentences describing the story of their day out. On the facing page are around six smaller boxes, delineated by color and lines, that highlight specific information about plants, animals, or the environment. Some of these have flaps that can be lifted, and more information is located on or underneath the flap.

The language is simple and direct, and gives good examples of the environmental importance of the topic being discussed. Robin and Plum interact with this information in a natural way, and their trip to the beach and then to the island is a pleasant framework for the multitude of important facts about the coastal climate and its impact on the world at large.

Readers who can't get enough about the sea and have read Fleming's A Tide Pool Waits, Nat Geo Kids At the Beach, Stahl's Save the Ocean, Lee's The Atlas of Migrating Planst and Animals, and Mihaly's Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery will enjoy this introduction to marine climates, and readers who would like a virtual visit to the shore will find this a good way to travel virtually.

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