It’s been a while since I reviewed a novel. I’ve probably said this a hundred times but graveyard shift sucks. I barely have time to finish the novels in my TBR pile. I read a few lines and I would fall asleep; the book is not even boring.
Anyway, this book I’m going to feature today for Book Talk Tuesday, hosted by Kelly Butcher from the Lemme Library, is a recent discovery of mine. I didn’t want it to go unread so I made sure to finish this book in time for our bimonthly theme, Girl Power and Women’s Wiles.
Bodil Bredsdorff and the Birth of the Crow-Girl. While I usually reserve posts about the author at the very end of my reviews, I thought of sharing with you a few tidbits about Danish children’s author Bodil Bredsdorff and her inspiration behind the heartwarming story of a girl who was called the Crow-Girl.
The Crow-Girl is the first book in Bodil’s series called The Children of Crow Cove. So far, there are four books in the series: The Crow-Girl, Eidi, Tink, and Alek. The Crow-Girl is Bodil’s first book to be translated in English with the aid of Faith Ingwersen.
In searching for Bodil’s pictures online, I came across the website of the Wisconsin International Outreach Consortium. It was the same website where the photos above originally came from. The website also has a pdf file containing Bodil’s presentation for the International Children’s Literature Day in Madison, Wisconsin in 2008. If you wish to read her entire presentation, you may click here.
Bodil mentioned in her presentation that she loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books as a child. While I didn’t grow up with The Little House series, I could see some Wilder influence in The Crow-Girl, especially in Bodil’s description of Crow Cove itself.
“Near a little cove where a brook ran out to the sea stood three houses. One of them was not really a house anymore. It was a ruin, with only the lowest part of the walls still standing… The cove was completely quiet except for the brook’s gurgling and the sound on the narrow shore of pebbles driven back and forth across the rocky ground by the swells. An eagle let itself be carried by the win out across the water. A wisp of smoke was rising from one of the chimneys.” – pp. 3-4
I was too preoccupied with the story that I almost forgot about the trip that Mikey and I took to La Jolla Cove in January of 2011. The following pictures taken from our trip may not resemble the cove in The Crow-Girl but they kept popping in my head as I was reading the book.
A Story of Grief, Loss, and Isolation. The setting of The Crow-Girl has a “country life” feel to it, and the cove was a giveaway of sort. As I became familiar with the cove, I felt a sense of longing but, more importantly, a feeling of alienation. It wasn’t only because there were only a few houses in that area. It was also because Crow-Girl became an orphaned young girl after her grandmother died. Bodil explained,
“I was watching a shooting star drawing a streak of light across the sky when I got the idea for a book about a child who is totally alone in the world. She should have no family, no friends, no neighbors. The book would be about what this solitary child would do.” – Bodil Bredsdorff, 2008 International Children’s Literature Day (Madison, Wisconsin), p. 2
There were other events in Crow-Girl’s life that demonstrated this feeling of loss, of being alone in the world in spite of company. The story of Crow-Girl is heartbreaking. At least that was how I felt. I wanted to put the book down and stop reading. I felt sorry for the orphan girl; I wanted to take her in and clothe her and tuck her in bed.
A Sense of Belonging and Finding Strength in Others. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I borrowed The Crow-Girl from our library. It showed up in my list of books for our bimonthly theme, so I decided to check it out.
On the surface, Crow-Girl may be thought of as weak and helpless. While it was true that she went through a few bad experiences after her grandmother died, she outlived them all. She was a survivor and that alone was a good enough reason to celebrate. As Bodil mentioned in her presentation,
“What I wanted to do was to tell them a story about a child of their own age who is all alone in the world… and gets on with it.” – Bodil Bredsdorff, 2008 International Children’s Literature Day (Madison, Wisconsin), p. 4
Among my favorite parts in the book was the beginning, in which Crow-Girl’s grandmother shared with her the three rules of Life. In order to preserve her wisdom, allow me to quote:
“You will find two kinds of people in the world. Some say that there are the bad and the good. But it isn’t like that. Since what is good for one may be bad for another. No, that doesn’t work. You have to depend on your intuition.
“There are those who make you feel inside as if you are drinking a good, warm soup – even if you are hungry and the two of you have nothing to eat. In spite of that they nourish you.
“And then there are those who cause you to freeze inside, even if you are sitting before a roaring fire and have eaten your fill. Those you should keep away from. They are not good for you, even though others might say that they are good people…” – Crow-Girl’s grandmother, pp. 8-9
Crow-Girl is only a child – I’d say somewhere between the ages of 8-10. As adults, we can only imagine how she felt about the gravity of her situation. In fact, she might not even realize it. She would’ve felt numb after her grandmother’s death. But she did not falter. As for what her grandmother said, Crow-Girl didn’t have a defining epiphany. As readers, you would understand how the passage would come into play.
Crow-Girl was not the only one who experienced a sense of loss. The people she met in her ‘journey’ also had their own share of loss. It is through this mutual feelings of loss and solitude that brought them together.
Endnotes. Bodil Bredsdorff’s The Crow-Girl is the story of every child who is exposed to the harsh realities of life at an early age. It is the story of every adult who once faltered but is able to stand up again. More importantly, The Crow-Girl reminds us that even in times of adversity we can become beacons of light to others.
Written by Bodil Bredsdorff
Translated into English by Faith Ingwersen
Reading Level: Ages 8 and up
Hardcover: 155 pages
Publisher: Farrar Strause Giroux (2004)
Book borrowed from the Chula Vista Public Library.
Book photo taken by me.