FICTION

Lena, the Sea, and Me

Candlewick. Aug. 2021. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781536207729.
COPY ISBN
Gr 3-6–Fans of Parr’s Adventures with Waffles will be thrilled to revisit best friends (and neighbors) Lena and Trille as they navigate another year in the small Norwegian town of Mathildewick Cove. Lena is still a firecracker and Trille is still quiet and kind, and they are definitely still getting into trouble! Hoisting Trille’s little sister up a flagpole, venturing into the fjord on a flimsy homemade raft, and caroling during a hurricane are just some of the funny adventures the pair attempt this year. They are also starting to grow up. Trille is navigating his interest (and Lena’s resentment) toward Brigid, the new girl in town, as well as the fear that comes with watching his grandfather getting older. Lena is dealing with the disappointment and insecurity that comes with being overlooked by her new soccer coach and struggling with music lessons. Scandinavian details like picking bilberries, drinking red currant squash, and fishing for enormous halibut provide delightful insight into living elsewhere on the globe. The story has a lovely cyclical quality as it moves through the seasons. Fishing with Trille’s grandpa is a highlight early in the story, but near the conclusion the same outing is so much more poignant as Trille, having lost some of his naivete and gained some maturity over the year, recognizes what a gift is to be found in those experiences. Parr shows enormous respect for the way children navigate so many of life’s changes—births and aging, first crushes, the responsibility that comes with loving a family and nurturing friendships—and paints the emotions of the children as complex and dignified.
VERDICT A captivating celebration of all the sweet (and bittersweet) feelings that come with growing up.

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