Irrepressible Inge Maria has been sent to live with her grandmother on the island of Bornholm, Denmark, after her mother’s death.
It’s easy to see the influence of Anne of Green Gables, although this effort is aimed at a younger audience than the classic’s. Good-hearted Inge gets into plenty of unintentional (and some deliberate, mischievous) trouble. Through her impetuosity, she gradually alters the drab lives of the adults surrounding her. Humor infuses the story. Traveling by fishing boat to the island, 10-year-old Inge is wedged between a hungry goat and angry, caged geese. After she dozes off, the goat eats one of her braids. Her stern, seemingly unfriendly grandmother knits her a hat to conceal the damage. Under Inge’s influence, a warm ebullience gradually emerges in the older woman. Deliciously evocative language peppers the tale: describing an especially humorless neighbor, Inge says, “Her piercing stare slips down her long nose, lands on my head, then slides all the way to my toes.” Australian author Nannestad artfully uses Hans Christian Andersen tales to illuminate Inge’s painful grief over both the death of her mother and the loss of her familiar, past life. The 1911 era and the distinctive island setting are fully realized; even her grandmother’s farm animals blithely play a role.
This heartwarming and richly engaging tale explores grief and the sustaining support of humor with an abundance of love. (Historical fiction. 9-12)