When I was young there seemed to be a huge number of Scandinavian authors writing for children, many of whose books were translated into English and which I absolutely loved. Astrid Lindgren, Tove Jansson, Gunnell Linde, Nils-Olof Franzen, and Anne-Cath Vestry all spring to mind. There were undoubtedly others. Many of these books are now out of print in the English language, which seems a terrible shame to me, as they were such a delight to me when I was growing up. One book I really loved was Anne-Cath Vestly’s Aurora and the Little Blue Car which I read over and over again. Just recently I found a copy of Hallo Aurora!, the first book in the series. I don’t remember having read it as a child, so I snapped it up.
The book tells the story of Aurora and her family. She lives with her mum, who is a lawyer, her dad who is a Phd Classical History student, and her baby brother, Socrates. The book opens as Aurora and her family move into a new block of flats on the outskirts of town. They have to move because their old house is being torn down to make way for a new development. Aurora is not happy about this. She misses her old house and their routines. She misses her friends and neighbours, and she is not sure how she is going to fit in here.
Aurora’s family set up is quite strange. Her mother goes to work. Her father stays at home and studies in between looking after Aurora and Socrates. Aurora is unsure how the other people in the block are going to cope with this unusual life choice, and certainly she and her father are the subject of a lot of housewife gossip to start with. The book tells the story of the first few months of their life there, from Aurora’s point of view. It establishes how Aurora learns to be proud of their unconventional family set up, as well as how she makes new friends.
I was quite taken aback by this book as I read. I had no idea, reading the stories as a child, quite how political and feminist they were. It is not that they aren’t enjoyable, and I certainly enjoyed the stories as a child or I would never have picked it up again to read now. It’s just that it is incredibly right on and forward thinking for a book that was first published in 1966.
It is dated now. I have to say, and the stories in here are not quite charming enough to hold my attention now. I would hesitate to recommend them to a child as an independent read, because there isn’t enough tension or whimsy to encourage a child to read on. It is all about everyday life, which is no bad thing, but there’s no real drama or excitement to grip the imagination. I would say it’s more interesting as a read in terms of capturing a moment in social history than anything else. It was fascinating, but not for modern children I think.