Friday, January 4, 2019

Book Review: Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr (2018)

In this new middle grade novel by Norwegian author Maria Parr (Adventures with Waffles, 2015) Astrid is the only child living in her village of Glimmerdal, and as a result her best friend is an elderly man named Gunnvald. Astrid, who is known in her community as "the little thunderbolt" has very strong emotions as well as a tendency to be a bit of a daredevil which frequently gets her into trouble. Astrid has always wanted the excitement of newcomers in town, especially kids, but when some strangers do show up, she suddenly becomes wary of the changes they might bring. When she discovers that Gunnvald has been keeping a secret from her, she's not sure she will ever look at anything the same way again.

When I saw this book compared to Pippi Longstocking, I was a bit wary because, as I've said, I find Pippi grating and exhausting. I need not have worried, however, because Astrid, though plucky and self-confident, is a much more believable child character than Pippi. Outlandish as her behavior can be, Astrid is very much of the real world and not someone who feels like she belongs in a tall tale. Astrid's emotional turmoil, in particular, is thoroughly believable, and it is easy to empathize with her situation as events unfold.

The writing in this book is also top-notch. Descriptions of the characters and setting are vivid,and the author gives a clear picture of Glimmerdal and its inhabitants that makes the reader feel like a part of this fictional universe. Astrid's relationship to Gunnvald is unique and special and their friendship, though unlikely, makes perfect sense within the context of this novel. I enjoyed Adventures with Waffles, but this book is even better. Also, as an added bonus, it's a middle grade novel you can hand to an eight-, nine-, or ten-year-old without reservations. There aren't a lot of those around, so this is a rare gem for that reason as well. (Thank you, Candlewick Press, for the digital review copy via NetGalley!)

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