Name of Book: Garmann’s Summer
Author: Stian Hole
Illustrator: Stian Hole
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Younger Readers
Audience: Ages 6 and up.
Summary: Garmann, who is 6 years old, lives in Scandinavia. He will soon go off to his first year at school, and he has spent the summer worrying about all the things that he does not yet know how to do: ride a bicycle, walk along the top of the fence, hold his head under water, read a book. He has not even lost one tooth yet, either. When his three elderly aunts come to visit, as they do every summer, Garmann talks to them about how much he fears going to school, and they share their fears, too.
Literary elements at work in the story: The reader looking for a cheery back-to-school story in which the worries of an anxious kindergartner are swept away in thirty-two pages will not find it here. Author Stian Hole instead shines an unwavering light through both text and pictures on Garmann’s creative fretting. Hole’s illustrations combine photographs of people against painted and collaged backdrops in a mildly discomforting expressionistic style; Garmann’s brow is furrowed, he stares at his aunties’ dentures magnified in a glass of water, his relatives are terribly wrinkled and old. The tone of Garmann’s Summer, while not typical for a children’s picture book, does children the honor of taking their fears seriously. Garmann is lucky enough to live in a family with whom he can talk about his fears. Even more unusual, his relatives all acknowledge their own fears, too.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Garmann lives in a nuclear family with two parents and loving elderly relatives. Although the story is obviously set in Scandinavia, Garmann’s fears about starting school transcend his particular setting.
Theological conversation partners: Garmann’s Summer would be a good book to use one-on-one with a child who is fearful, since it speaks calmly of the universal nature of fear. The book could lead into a conversation of Jesus’ response to people’s fears in his Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin …” (Matthew 6:25, 28) Psalm 23 could also be a helpful conversation partner with Garmann’s fears and those of his family. Finally, one might turn to Galatians 6:2, where Paul reminds us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Garmann’s family did help him bear his burdens by listening to his fears and sharing their own with him.
Faith talk questions:
- What is Garmann afraid of?
- What is Auntie Ruth afraid of? Why would those things be scary?
- What is Garmann’s daddy afraid of? What about his mama?
- Are you ever afraid of anything? What?
- Garmann talked with everyone in his family about being afraid. Why do you think he did this? Did it help him?
- Who would you go to when you wanted to talk about being afraid?
- When David wrote the Psalms, he often wrote about things that were frightening. Who helps David with his fears in Psalm 23?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Beth Lyon-Suhring.
Garmann’s Summer by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.