Hattie + Olaf

Hattie + Olaf
Frida Nilsson, illustrated by Stina Wirsén
Gecko Press

Hattie is now in her second year at school and since her very first day has been best friends with Linda. They’re both chatterboxes but whereas Hattie, like almost all the girls in her class, is totally horse mad, Linda thinks the whole horse fever stupid.

Told in the present tense, we discover that although Hattie wants a horse more than anything else in the entire world, what her father gets her is far less expensive, though it does have hooves and he brings it in a horse trailer: it’s a mangy old donkey named Olaf. That’s what happens when you wish on a ‘tired old longhorn beetle instead of a ladybird’ thinks Hattie.

Does Hattie rush into school and tell her classmates about the creature: no way! Instead she invents a tale about a new neighbour, owner of three white horses that she’s allowed to ride whenever she wants. Inevitably, she’s eventually found out and Hattie is ridiculed by her fellow horse enthusiasts. Moreover she has a punch up with Alfie getting her into BIG trouble,

and also falls out with Linda.

The days pass and by the time the Christmas holiday draws near, Hattie is anticipating a break without Olaf. But where has he gone and will he ever come back?

Splendidly funny, this quirky story showing how young Hattie navigates school and relationships, discovering what loyalty means, as well as those things that are of real importance, is a delight through and through; made all the more so by the scattering throughout of Stina Wirsén’s black and white illustrations.

It works equally well as a read aloud for those around Hattie’s age or, for slightly older, confident readers who will be amused by the protagonist’s innocent intensity.

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