About the Holiday
National Reading Month is a book-lover’s delight! With thirty-one whole days where taking extra time to read is not only allowed but encouraged can send one hurrying out to the bookstore or library to stock up! Kids love being read to, and setting aside time to read together every day builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is officially marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. This year look for virtual events and make a plan with your kids to find new and old favorites books to share.
Thanks to Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Agnes’s Place for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of the book. See details below.
Written by Marit Larsen | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie | Translated by Kari Dickson
In a city of “so many buildings,” Agnes lives on a neat little street where the trolley passes by and a café and corner grocery welcome their customers. In her apartment building, Agnes “knows she is at home before she even opens her eyes in the morning. She knows who is baking, who is playing, and who is saying shush.” When she opens her window, the birds come for the seeds she feeds them because “she knows that the birds are hungry and that she is the only one who remembers.” Agnes knows about all of the residents of her building and especially “what it is like to be the only child in a place full of adults who never have time.”
One day when she looked out her window at the rain coming down, she noticed a girl standing next to her favorite puddle with a tall pile of boxes and belongings. Agnes wondered if she was moving in. She watched through the peephole in her door as the girl and adults carried boxes and bags up the stairs to the fifth floor. Excited, Agnes drew a large picture of the swings outside the building, and she wrote an invitation—“HERE”—with an arrow. Then, when things were quiet, she went upstairs and slid it through the letter box, where it came to rest under a chest of drawers. Agnes skipped down the stairs. “She felt her heart pounding in her cheeks and ears.” But, later, she sat on the swing alone, which felt lonelier than playing on the swings by herself.
When Agnes woke up the next day, she felt that everything was the same… but completely different. When she went to the window to feed the birds, they flew past her and up toward the new girl’s window. Later, Agnes practiced new tricks on the swing. After that, she played with her toys while she watched the new girl on the swing. Her home “was somehow a new place now,” and all she could think about was the new girl: did she hear and see the same things Agnes did?
Every day, Agnes waited by the swings until it was time to go in. The new girl discovered Agnes’s puddle by herself. She did a lot of fun things, and if she saw Agnes at the market, Agnes couldn’t tell because she walked right by. When Agnes went to get Emilia’s newspaper from the mailbox to deliver as she did every day, she found the box empty. And when she went to visit Emilia, she found Emilia already doing the crossword puzzle.
Agnes ventured: “‘it is a bit strange, isn’t it, that you can just move into a place without asking everyone who lives there if they think it’s okay?’” Emilia said, “‘Well, now—we’ve all been new at one time or another. Even me.’” Then Emilia offered her a waffle, but Agnes thought “a waffle is not much comfort when you are five and have no secrets left to share.”
But coming downstairs, Agnes was suddenly face to face with the new girl. They were the same size and “both just as quiet.” Agnes’s sweater matched the new girl’s hat, and when Anna opened her hands the marbles inside glowed as if “she had the whole universe in the palm of her hand.” They laughed together as the marbles flowed down the stairs like waves. Then Anna grabbed Agnes’s hand and led her upstairs to the roof, where Agnes had never been before but which Anna had transformed with birdhouses and little lights, and they had a picnic of waffles and hot chocolate. “It turned out that Anna had her own secrets. And they were wild and wonderful.”
Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage children to read from a wide range of cultural perspectives. Agnes’s Place was originally published in Norway.
Marit Larsen has written a complex and thought-provoking story about making new friends and the nature of friendship, about loneliness, a sense of loss, and feelings of discovery. As the only child in the apartment building, Agnes has been left to make her own way and find her own entertainment and routines—her secrets. She is excited to see a new girl moving in and immediately invites her to play. But when her picture goes unseen and Agnes’s secrets are one-by-one discovered and, in some cases, “taken” by Anna, Larsen introduces the idea of how mixed signals, disappointments, and unfulfilled expectations can affect one’s own sense of self and place in the world.
Of course, Anna doesn’t know about Agnes and can’t know that the puddle, the swings, the birds, and Emilia’s newspaper have been “hers,” and in one illustration Anna can be seen as lonely too. When Agnes and Anna finally meet up and they realize that they are alike in many ways, they quickly become friends, and together they can their world more “wild and wonderful.” The events in the story give readers and adults excellent opportunities to discuss commonly felt emotions surrounding friendships and new experiences and what someone could and/or would do in similar situations.
In her gorgeous matte illustrations rendered in soothing hues, Jenny Løvlie creates a charming neighborhood and apartment building, in which cutaways show Agnes’s neighbors baking, reading, and tinkering in their own apartments. Through snapshot images Løvlie shows the disconnect between Agnes and Anna, and clearly shows how Agnes’s initial excitement at making a friend turns to sadness and uncertainty when her invitation goes unanswered and her comforting daily routine is seemingly usurped.
The moment when Agnes and Anna meet, however, is infused with acceptance, understanding, and promise. The final two spreads in which Anna and Agnes climb to the roof and have a picnic are stunning for their color and the magic they inspire. Kids and adults will want to linger over each page to soak up all of the details that are so true to home life as well as the whimsical antics of a pair of mice. Readers will also love to point out all of the cats and other animals that appear throughout the pages.
A heartfelt and lovely story about new friendships and growing up set in a vibrant apartment community, Agnes’s Place would be a captivating addition to home, school, and public libraries for thoughtful story times.
Ages 4 – 8
Amazon Crossing Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542026758
Marit Larsen is a Norwegian songwriter and musician. Agnes’s Place, her debut picture book, was first published in Norway and will also be published in Denmark and Italy. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. You can learn more about the author at www.maritlarsen.com and on Instagram: larsenmarit
Jenny Løvlie is a Norwegian illustrator. Her previous picture book, The Girls, written by Lauren Ace, was the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. She currently lives in Cardiff, Wales. You can connect with Jenny Løvlie at www.lovlieillustration.com and on Instagram: lovlieillustration.
Kari Dickson is a literary translator from Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2020 she won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for best children’s translation for Brown, written by Håkon Øvreås and illustrated by Øyvind Torseter. She holds a BA in Scandinavian studies and an MA in translation.
Agnes’s Place Giveaway
I’m happy to be teaming with Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:
- One (1) copy of Agnes’s Place written by Marit Larsen | illustrated by Jenny Løvlie
- Follow Celebrate Picture Books
- Retweet a giveaway tweet
- Bonus: Reply with your favorite childhood book for extra entry
This giveaway is open from March 1 to March 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.
A winner will be chosen on March 8.
Prizing provided by Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media
Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts
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