Lynn: A feisty new character has arrived to delight readers who love Anne of Green Gables. The irrepressible Inge Maria Jensen sails into the lives of her Grandmother Dizzy, the residents of Bornholm Island, and readers everywhere in Katrina Nannestad’s enchanting When Mischief Came to Town (2016). After the death of her mother, 10-year-old Inge Maria has been sent to the Danish island of Bornholm to live with her stern grandmother, Dizzy Bruland. On the boat, a seasick, homesick, and exhausted Inge Maria falls asleep next to a crate containing a goat and wakes to discover that the goat has eaten one of her braids right up to her scalp!
Like Anne, Inge Maria TRIES to be good but somehow things just happen. During a kicking contest with the farm donkey, she conks Henry the turkey with her flying clog and knocks him out cold. She leads a rebellion at her school and falls asleep in a smoking shed, reeking of herring for weeks afterward. She burst into her own invented song during church, earning her a pinch from her grandmother. The dour folks of the island can talk of little else. Nannestad juxtaposes a series of hilarious events with a subtle picture of two seemingly disparate people trying to manage grief and create a new family. Inge Maria is a joyful force of nature and her grandmother and all the islanders of Bornholm never stand a chance.
Cindy: Inge Maria is comforted when she sees her Grandmother’s house with its thatched roof:
At least she doesn’t live in a cave, or a hole in a tree.
It happens, you know. I’ve read about it in fairy tales.
Inge has quite the imagination and is always on the lookout for fairy-tale elements in her life. She talks to her beautiful silver spoon each morning, for example, hoping it will reply. One of the comfort items she brought from her Copenhagen apartment is a well-read collection of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. The one she loves best is the humorous “Emperor’s New Clothes.” The images of the foolish emperor parading around naked always made Inge Maria and her mother roll with laughter, but now she cannot bring herself to revisit the story.
Grandmother and granddaughter realize they are kindred spirits and through Inge’s antics and shared laughter they learn to cope with the sadness in their hearts. Even Henry the turkey will agree that Inge’s mischief is the perfect tonic for what ails you . . . gobble-gibble-gubble-gobble-gibble-garble-gub. Try this as a read-aloud with your third- and fourth-graders and the laughs will quickly follow.