Thursday, July 31, 2008

garmann's summer

stian hole is a norwegian illustrator and author of children's books (and no, it doesn't read hole, but more like hoo-lé). Published in ten languages, Garmann's Summer was the recipient of the 2007 BolognaRagazzi Award, one of the most prestigious international prizes for excellence in children's book publishing. the book is about a young boy afraid of starting school, who, while spending his summer with his parents and his three elderly aunts, discovers that adults also have fears.

when i first laid eyes on this book in the bookstore, i immediately fell in love. i love his illustrations. some say repulsive, others say brilliant. and then, the story turns out to be a gem as well.
you can get this book at amazon, and there you can also read a really long and really good review of it. i have taken the liberty to copypaste some of it here:

(...) when a book like "Garmann's Summer" plops down on your lap, your initial instinct is to reject it. "It looks weird!" "What's this book about?" "Why's he look like that?" It's a knee-jerk series of reactions. Only when you slow down, read the book fully, and think about it do you realize that maybe there's room in this world for a small unassuming Norwegian tale about a boy's thoughts on death, age, fear, and losing your baby teeth. Children, as odd as it sounds, are not adverse to age-appropriate emotional complexity.

(...) What it does have is a quietness. A patience. From the start, the story acknowledges that sometimes the only grown-ups six-year-olds can really connect with are the elderly. It's almost as if at a certain point, old people have gained enough wisdom to talk to small people AND tall people in meaningful ways. Maybe that's what it means to be wise.

(...) All these books tap into children's anxieties and worries. What "Garmann's Summer" does so deftly is tie an understandable fear (the first day of school) into grown-up fears (leaving, death, messing up) and in doing so shows kids that all human beings are afraid of something. Now in an American title this would mean that the book would inevitably end with a neat and tidy resolution. Somehow the message of "there's nothing to be afraid of" would filter in and everything would be hunky dory by they tale's end. There are many reasons to believe while reading "Garmann's Summer" that it was not originally produced in America, but the clearest of these is the ending. The very last four sentences of the book are, "From the corner of his eye he sees the first leaf falling from the apple tree. Before going to bed he checks his teeth one last time to see if any are loose. Thirteen hours to go before school starts. And Garmann is scared." The thing is, this isn't seen as a good or bad thing, but a fact. The accompanying image is of Garmann looking at a windowsill, his packed backpack on the floor behind him. It's a wistful kind of ending. One that assures children, without saying too much, that they are not alone in their fears. Everyone is scared of something.

(...) Stian Hole's words are one matter. His illustrations, the first thing people react to upon seeing this book, are another. On a first reading I was initially repulsed by how different the images were from anything else I'd ever seen. A kind of mixed-media collage of photographs, drawings, and retro images, some adults have a hard time with this book. I'd love to pinpoint exactly why this is. For some of them, maybe it has to do with the three aunts. Hole doesn't beautify their wrinkles or pretty up their age.

(...) None of this is to say that the book is for everyone. It isn't. There will be a lot of parents that eye the cover warily when you hand it to them, smile, and place it gently back on the shelf again. But a book like "Garmann's Summer" teaches us that not everyone in this world is alike. Sometimes you're going to find creative adults who are willing to read this story, love it, and pass it on to their children who will (in turn) read the book and love it too. I receive a lot of books for review and I keep almost none of them. "Garmann's Summer", however, is one of the few I will keep until my children (whenever I have them) are old enough to go to school. Like nothing you've ever read before, this is the very definition of a beautiful children's picture book. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the farmer

a couple of weeks ago, we went by our local farm school. it's a huge area with a large farm, school buildings, a veterinary clinic, historical museum, a farm shop, a beach and then some. we went up there to swim in the ocean (which didn't happen, it was too cold) and to visit our friend who was working at the farm (and picking strawberries for free, yum).

she's attending high school for the second time in her life. at 45, she wakes up and realises all she wants in life is to become a farmer. she's in class with 16 year old kids, doing all the farming stuff, but also all the rest - mathematics, social science, gymnastics.
gymnastics. and she beats them all!

her dream is to run an organic farm. seeing her working is like seeing someone who's been doing this all of her life. she's so at home. and i'm so proud of her.

the craft

viking replica jewellery. always popular.

embroidery. i got their secret, finally. they use some kind of tracing paper, which they actually embroider through and on to the fabric, and then tear off.


knitting and crocheting wasn't invented yet, so this is what they did; needlebinding. a much slower technique. and a bit limited; it was mostly used for hats and socks, i'm not sure about wristwarmers, but they certainly are popular among the 'new' vikings.

some more embroidery.
most of these viking enthusiasts are quite hard core when it comes to authenticity and craft. a lot of the dresses are hand sewn.

a bow maker.

so far, i've made two pairs of wristwarmers using the needlebinding technique. hope i'll be able to advance to a hat soon!

Monday, July 28, 2008

our site

the name of our game was plant dyes. white wool yarn turns into amazing colours, only by the aid of plants, water, a cauldron, a fireplace and time. look at the transformation of this yarn over the days the market was open:

nice, huh?

my frind's boyfriend, carving wood. (by the way, see that carved dragon thing in picture # 2? it's a work-in-progress chair, and my mad valkyrie friend is carving it. she's good!)

some of the clothes i brought

me, working at my newly aquired needle binding techniques. more on that later!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

the site, the people

i could have named this post 'and then it rained...', but i'm not going to (even though this one week is the only vacation we'll have this whole summer, and even though this one particular week was the wettest, coldest ever. but, it did get better during the last 3 days. so.)
the site was the rather famous, small valley of gudvangen, a much visited tourist attraction and listed on unescos world heritage list. it's dramatic, the fjord can hardly get narrower and the mountains hardly steeper. it's beautiful. and i've done a lousy job photographing it, but that's ok.
there's hardly a more appropriate place for arranging a viking market/festival, as the name gudvangen itself is old norse and refers to a place of worship (of the old gods).
we arrived tuesday night, and had been driving for 3 hours when we realised we had forgotten our sleeping bags... we continued, set up the tent, and my husband went back home to get them. meantime, i borrowed some sheep skins for the kids to sleep on and under. and then we were cold and wet, wet and cold, for two days while we set up our viking stall/tent in the viking area.
the official opening was on friday morning, where this lady led a parade of vikings to the entrance space.

and these guys entertained with excellent music! they were just great, one of the two highlights of the entire festival.

and what better thing to do to some groovy folk music, than fight?

the opening consisted of small bits of what was going on every day, such as concerts, lectures, archery, sword fighting, poetry and wrestling (among other things). what you see here is glima, the budo of the viking age. described as 'history class with bruises', glima is an ancient wrestling form with deeply philosophical and spiritual elements to it. the guy in blue (below) is judge of the fight, former nordic champion and teacher of glima; swedish runeologist lars magnar enoksen. and he was the other highlight of the festival.

i had actually never heard of him, but when a friend of mine read in the paper that he was coming, she immediately left home, jumped on a bus and came all the way just to talk to him for a couple of hours. runeology is a subdivision of old norse philology (the study of texts and linguistics), and deals with, not surprisingly, the runes. this guy is an expert on runes and old norse magic. we loved him. we actually drilled holes in his head, put straws in and sucked the knowledge out. unfortunately, we didn't have enough time, so he remains the expert on the subject.
my daughter loved the band the most. she attended every daily concert they played, and placed herself as close to them as she could get. one meter away seemed to be the best position.

(she loved them more than the flame eater guy, and even more than the storyteller, and man - he was GOOD).
the storyteller:

the tattoist

the embroidery lady

the old couple

the bed (some people have been doing this long enough to get tired of the uncomfortableness of camping....)

the fighter (i tell you, it's all about dress)

the smokin' hot viking woman (my friend, who attended a women's rowing thing, and of course jumped off the boat in some valkyrie madness. here she's drying her wet dress and pregnant body over the fireplace)

the daughter

we were about 200 vikings from 13 nations, of all ages, but surprisingly many elderly people. there were 1500 visitors during the weekend. more later on what we were doing during these days!

Monday, July 14, 2008

by the sea


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