A boy in a small Norwegian city comes into his own socially and artistically in this import.
Twelve year-old Bart draws on his seemingly boundless—yet Nordically muted—optimism to manage the challenges of being a physically slight opera lover and the only child of a loving mother whose alcohol addiction has led them to live in a one-room apartment in a building littered with heroin paraphernalia. Sharply observant, Bart keeps his inner and home lives private at school to stay under the radar. Despite routinely running out of money and groceries, he’s just able to manage this delicate balancing act until he gives classmate Ada a CD of him singing, and she shares his ability with a teacher. The teacher insists Bart sing at a school concert, turning the preteen fan of Bryn Terfel into an object of fascination. Soon, obnoxious boys show up at Bart’s run-down public housing project spoiling for a fight, while rumors about his mother fly at school. Bart reveals different aspects of his world slowly, drawing readers in while giving them space to develop mental pictures of his town, school, neighbors, and classmates. Some late plot developments, including Bart’s mother’s near-fatal alcohol poisoning and a man who might be his biological father, are a bit far-fetched, but Bart’s depth and the beauty he finds in his world are winning and moving.
Lovely and profound. (Fiction. 11-14)