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.

Hattie

Hattie
Frida Nilsson, illustrated by Stina Wirsén
Gecko Press

Six year old Hattie is shall we say, something of a mischief. She lives in a small country town in Sweden with her hard working parents and there’s little to keep her amused so she’s been eagerly anticipating starting school. That, she thinks, will surely bring plenty of adventures, and so it does.

Right on the very first day she makes a new friend, Linda who despite initial appearances is full of fun. She makes other friends too and manages to get herself into all kinds of trouble, sometimes solo, at other times along with her bestie, each escapade being related in a chapter. Every one however, results in new learning on Hattie’s part.

There’s the incident when on the eve of the school photographs, she gets her haircut

and ends up with a style that’s way too tufty, but guess who looks the most funky when the photo comes out.

Not everything goes wrong though: Hattie turns seven, becomes besotted with a hermit crab which results in Dad having to do some quick thinking; she gets her very first swimming badge – eventually – after some warty trouble;

and before you can possibly say, ‘where’s all that time gone,’ a whole school year has passed and it’s the summer holiday.

Youngsters around Hattie’s age will surely love reading about, or hearing of, her escapades; this is a girl with a thirst for fun, a total charmer who just doesn’t stop and think about the consequences of her actions before plunging straight in. She does though pause for thought, reflect and take on board the lessons learned.

The occasional line drawings by Stina Wirsén are a sheer delight too.