Midsummer Madness


Midsummer Bonfire by Nikolai Astrup, 1909

It is the end of June and school is finally out. Kids and parents pack their picnic baskets and head for the nearest meadow or beach, or as the last resort; a gravel football court, where a huge bonfire has been standing tall, composed of old branches and throw-away furniture, since the first day of summer. For some, this is the day they pack their cars or boats, and head for their summer getaways. But the bonfire is certainly not to be missed. Will the witch adorning the top of the driftwood tower fall over before she is licked clean by the building flames this year, or will she collapse at the first touch of smoke like last year?

The witch is the main character of this suspiciously pagan Nordic holiday. She, and her sisters, will be on the prowl on midsummer night, looking for eligible bachelors to kidnap, and god help the girl who tries to stand up for her lover! So the inhabitants of each village try to scare her away by burning replicas of her on a huge bonfire. Since the witches normally fly quite high in the sky, this tend to work fine. At least it has for centuries now, with a few exceptions, so do NOT forget the witch on top of the bonfire tonight!

Since this is a night steeped in magic, more than just witches may be heard from or even seen. The fairies will be out and about too. And it is said that, because of this, if a young girl picks seven different types of flowers from a meadow at midnight and puts them under her pillow when she sleeps, she will dream about the man she is going to marry!

When I was little, midsummers were spent at sea with my family. There would be a huge bonfire on a rock in the sea close to land, and it would burn far into the night. We would grill sausages on a smaller fire and tell each other stories about ghosts and witches. With me always being the main narrator. Sometimes I would scare my two younger siblings half to death!

If you want to learn more about our Nordic Midsummer Madness, you can read the beautiful book which is the inspiration for this post: ” Moominsummer Madness” by the Finnish author Tove Jansson. In this delightful children’s book you will encounter a floating theatre, electric ghosts, private property protests, and wild orphans who dream of seeing a real play.

Midsummer is a time for fairy magic, for fun and for family and friends. It is one of those delicious festivals that dates back to ancient times when it was the turning of the sun that marked the passing of the year, and gave cause for celebration. So no matter where you are, please have a magical Midsummer, and be sure to sprinkle a bit of Midsummer Madness in there.

Happy Midsummer!

Keeper of the Lost Cities

Keeper of the Lost Cities is a children’s fantasy book written by Shannon Messenger. The book is aimed at children from 10 years and up, but the children in the book are around 12-14 years old. Keeper of the Lost Cities is the first book in a fantasy series about Sophie Foster.

Sophie Foster is a 12 year old girl who has been a telepath since she was five. She also has a photographic memory, something which has made her excel in school. But these special abilities have always made Sophie feel alone and out of place. She doesn’t really have any friends and she is so different from her sister and parents that she sometimes wonders if she was adopted. So one day, when a boy, a little older than herself, shows up claiming he is an elf, and that so is she, Sophie is surprised, but perhaps not as shocked as she should be. The elvin boy takes her with him home to see his elvin family in a magic country where having special abilities is a very common thing. Sophie feels at home at right away, but when the elves ask her to leave her human family forever and come live with them instead, Sophie is torn. Can she really leave the only family she has ever known? But if she doesn’t, how will she ever go back to being a normal human girl again?

I loved this book to pieces! The characters are wonderful and very endearing, the language flows like a dream, and the writer takes time to describe details and scenarios that spark our imagination and make the story very atmospheric. The plot reminded me again of J.K Rowling; the elvin kids go to a magical academy and much of the story takes place there. Having said that, this was not a new storyline when J.K Rowling wrote it either, so I am definitely not saying this book copies from the Harry Potter books. Rather I would say that this book is perfect for lovers of the Harry Potter series (like me). Sophie’s world is filled with magic, but also with difficult decisions, dilemmas and trials. What is different in this story is that it is more realistic in a way, I mean, the writer talks about some of the issues that we face today, of course in a symbolic way, and how those who often feel like misfits, are the ones who will have to step up and be the heroes.

I will heartily recommend this book to all lovers of the fantasy genre, children and adults alike, but perhaps especially to those who feel different, like many of the children we call “Star children” do.

Of course five beautiful golden stars to this magical book! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Room on the Broom

Room on the Broom is a picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The book’s target group is children from 3-7 years old.

This little enchanted story, told in rhyme, is about a kind witch who goes out on a flight on her broom. Along the way she meets different animals who all wants to tag along. The kind witch grants them their wish, and this turns out to be a very lucky decision, for soon she meets a dragon who wants to eat her!

I absolutely fell in love with this adorable book! It is one of those picture books that will become a magic totem pole for a a child’s entire childhood. You know, one of those treasures that will transport you right back to that wonderful world, when you have long since left it behind.

I can just imagine a little child begging his or her guardian to read this book over and over again, and I think this is one of those books you wouldn’t even mind re-reading a hundred times over. When I first read it I was just dying to make all those adorable voices ( well, I kind of did after some time, I just couldn’t resist….!😳😳) and I laughed out loud at some of the funny parts!😂😂

I absolutely highly recommend this enchanting book! If you are one of those who have little ones in your life (or just someone like me who collects children’s books) , I would say it would make a wonderful addition to your children’s book library!

Of course, five beautiful twinkling stars! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Magic Marks the Spot

“Magic marks the spot” is a children’s book written by Caroline Carlson. This is the first book in a series called ” The very nearly honorable league of pirates”. It is aimed at children from 9 years and up, but I think smaller children will also love this book.

Hilary is a young girl who dreams of being a pirate, but with a father who is an admiral in the navy, it is not a career choice her parents particularly support. Instead she is sent to an academy of high society girls where she is supposed to learn how to swoon and waltz and crochet. Naturally Hilary cooks up a plan to escape, and when she sees an advert for “crew wanted” on a pirate ship she seizes her chance.

I absolutely adored this book! It is funny, sweet, clever and creative. I love how it is not gold and diamonds the pirates are after but magic! I love the heroine, Hilary, she is kind, determined, confident, sensitive and fiercely courageous. She is a breath of fresh air in the current literary climate, where female heroines are often rude, defensive, hostile and selfish, all in the pretense of being independent and strong. But being rude is NOT the same as being confident. There is a scene in the book that sums up what I mean: while hunting for treasure Hilary and her crew mate Charlie face a big wall they have to get over. First, Charlie tries to lift Hilary over the wall, when that doesn’t work, Hilary tries lifting Charlie, but she is also unsuccessful, so they start looking for secret passageways through the wall instead.

The language in this book flows so easily, and there is something to entertain you and make you laugh out loud on every page, so you don’t have to race-read to the end to get to the action part, or to find out how it eventually ends. The dialogue is super witty and clever and highly entertaining. I especially love the gargoyle, an enchanted stone figure with the most fabulous personality.

I will very very strongly recommend this book, to girls, boys, and to adults. I think it is a perfect book to read out loud together with a child. Even to very small children. This book is just a wonderful treat, especially to pirate lovers! To me, Hilary represents exactly the kind of pirate I dreamt of being when I was little.

Of course five fat shiny stars to this magical book! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Storybound

Storybound is a children’s fantasy book written by Marissa Burt. It is a part of a duology about Una Fairchild and her adventures in Story. This book is aimed at children 10-13 years old, but I think even younger kids might like it. Even though the heroine of the book is twelve years old.

This is one of those novels where the heroine disappears into a book where she finds a magical land where all the characters she always thought were only fictional prove to be real. Una Fairchild falls into Story in the middle of Peter’s practical examination where he has to fight a dragon in order to save a lady in distress. When he discovers Una in the cave he thinks she might be another maiden in need of a knight so he tries to save her too. But Una is not brought up to be a lady and she is more than ready to try to save herself. Later, Peter and Una become friends and Una joins him in the school where he is training to become a storybook character. But why has Una really come to Story? Will she ever get back to her real world? And who is the mysterious lady in red lurking around talking about Write-Ins?

I loved this story, and the plot, even though it has been told many times before, is original and creative. This book reminded me a lot of Chris Colfer’s “The Land of Stories” series, which has much of the same storyline. This book however, is a richer, but also more demanding read. It took me a long time to get into the story, and much of the plot is revealed through dialogue (there is a lot of eavesdropping) and reading of passages in books. The action part comes at the end of the book, something that can require too much patience for a young child. I found that the language didn’t flow as easily as I would have liked in a children’s book, but having said that, the book is very popular, so it might just be a personal preference thing.

I would definitely recommend this book, but for children who are a little impatient and like more action-driven books I would rather suggest checking out Chris Colfer’s “The Land of Stories” series.

C.S Lewis and me

I frist encountered the magical world of C.S Lewis through the BBC Tv-series “The Chronicles of Narnia” from 1989. I must have been just 5-6 years old, or even younger, when Narnia became the name of my own magical world. I made this world so detailed and vivid that when I first read the books in their original form I was quite let down. C.S Lewis’ writing was very straightforward and to-the-point and lacked the detailed descriptions that I have also craved in books. Nevertheless, he is the father and creator of this enchanted world with all its magical inhabitants and adventures, and for that, he has my absolute admiration, gratitude and utter respect. He has inspired my imagination to take flight ever since I was just a very little girl through his books; unabridged and complete, and abridged picture book versions.

The BBC series that introduced me to the wonderful world of C.S Lewis was normally telecast during Easter in Norway, as a morning treat for kids. My family and I spent our Easter in a sailing boat at sea, and it was only my uncle who had a TV in his boat, so he made us pay an admittance fee in candy in order for us to watch the series. Something we happily did, even though our storage of candy was quite limited.

My favorite parts of the series are the scene in Mr. Tumnus’ house when he and Lucy take tea for the first time in the first book, the scene in the magician’s house when Lucy makes the magician and his subjects visible in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, and when Eustace and Jill first meet the marsh wiggle in “The Silver Chair”.

The port keys to Narnia have always fascinated me. And all my life I have been looking for enchanted wardrobes and magic oil paintings of mighty ships at sea. Even the lamppost that is the first Narnian landmark after you’ve entered the magic Wardrobe has made me take hundreds of photos of Narnia-looking lampposts in the real world. I specifically remember one Wardrobe I found in an artsy hotel just outside Venice when I went there with my best friend to celebrate my 21st Birthday. It was magnificent, and yes, I did try to look for a magic country inside it.

When the “new” (well not so new anymore) Narnia movie came out, I was soooo excited. I spent hours on the Disney website playing Narnian games and watching trailer-clips of the upcoming film. But I was a bit let down when I first watched it in the theater. It was, as most modern movies are, fast-paced, action driven and computerized. The action bits (like the battle) were blown way up, and it had even added action scenes that were not there in the books. Having said that, I loved the four young actors who played the Pevensie children, they were all brilliant, and I wish I could have cast them in the BBC series, but I would have kept the old witch, played brilliantly by Barbara Kellerman. She is way scarier than the witch in the Disney movie.

The magic of Narnia will always fascinate me. It is not only a part of my childhood, it has become the totem pole of my imagination. I will always keep looking for secret doorways in paintings and wardrobes, and turn around to marvel over old lampposts. Narnia has become a part of me, of who I am, and that is all thanks to the wonderful C.S Lewis, who said so brilliantly: “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.” If only in my dreams.

Bliss

Bliss is a children’s book written by Kathryn Littlewood. The book is aimed at children from 9 to 12 years old, and the main target is girls. I would say the book can even be enjoyed by younger readers from 7 and up.

Bliss is the name of Rosemary’s family’s magical bakery, and magical, in this context, is meant literally. The Bliss family is in the possession of an ancient cook book with recipes that can cure the common cold, make people truthful or fall head over heels in love with each other. The book needs to be guarded carefully so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, and when Rosemary’s parents have to go away for a week, this task falls on Rosemary.
But as soon as Rosemary’s parents have left, a mysterious glamorous stranger appears in the bakery claiming to be the children’s long lost aunt. Aunt Lily is everything Rosemary has ever dreamt of being; popular, exotic, adventurous and drop dead gorgeous. But why does this beautiful aunt give Rosemary such a gnawing feeling in her guts, could she be someone else entirely? Even someone with sinister intentions?

This book is light-hearted, funny, sweet, and an absolute treat for kids who love cakes and baking. I can already hear my almost-nine-Year-old neighbor laughing in delight at some of the recipes-gone-wrong parts of the book. It is a light read, but perhaps a bit slow-paced. It reminds me of Roald Dahl, Alan Snow and David Walliams’ books, but this one is definitely for girls. It is perhaps a bit too childish for adults to enjoy, but I think it would be wonderful to read together with a little girl.

The only thing I would perhaps change about the book is the lack of descriptions and those little details that add so much magic to books like this; books that are atmospheric rather than action-driven. But that is just me, and I know many kids prefer more to-the-point language.

I would absolutely recommend this book to little girls from seven and up, especially girls who love baking, magic and funny things. 😄😄😄