Adventures with Waffles
This little gem of a chapter book has been around for 15 years, but is newish to Americans. Norwegian author Maria Parr must have channeled Astrid Lindgren (you know, Pippi Longstocking?) to create the memorable duo in Adventures with Waffles. Beautiful Norway is the stunning backdrop to this memorable story about childhood friendship, family camaraderie, and overcoming loss.
Enter a remote Scandinavian village
It isn’t even a village. Just a few houses tucked in a remote cove. 8 year old friends Trille and Lena have to make their excitement and they do: boatloads of it! You’ll be charmed by sweet Trille’s narration of life in his hamlet, his love for his family, and his loyalty to his difficult best friend. From sledding in winter to bonfires in summer, the neighbors in this wintery wonderland enjoy everyday life.
I loved the fact that Trille has an intact family with parents who love each other. He has three siblings, one of whom is adopted and comfortable with that. He lives in an intergenerational household; his grandfather has a flat in their basement and Trille loves having him there.
On the other hand, Lena lives with her single mother. She’s okay with this at first, but eventually begins to ask why she doesn’t have a father. In one of their notorious escapades, Lena and Trille decide to advertise and find a fitting father, confidently assuming her mother will be thrilled. While celebrating hardworking single parents, Adventures with Waffles conveys the intrinsic desire children have for both a mother and a father. It’s an affirmation of the importance of fathers! Now that is something you rarely see in a new children’s book!
Dealing with Grief and Loss
Adventures with Waffles isn’t all butterflies and daisies. Trille’s beloved waffle-making Auntie Granny dies midway through the book. Subtly but unmistakably Trille watches his family deal with the grief in their various ways. And he too has to come to terms with loss- and find ways to reawaken hope.
Trille and Lena also experience smaller losses and traumas: a horse they love is sent to the butcher and they scramble to save it. A fire threatens to destroy the family barn and animals. A bad sledding accident lands them in the hospital for a bit. In fact, they manage to crowd an inordinate number of misadventures into 230 pages! There’s no graphic violence though so all but the most sensitive readers shouldn’t be bothered.
Although I loved this book overall, I had two caveats when I went over my reading notes.
First, there’s a tiny bit of cruder humor at times, along the lines of putting out a bonfire with cow manure. Or a child making up a rhyme about moo and poo rhyming. I think it’s supposed to reflect that these are farm children used to the nitty gritty parts of farm life, so it didn’t bother me in this particular book. But just in case, note it’s there.
Second, there’s a little confusion about whether lying is always wrong. Some of this is a translation issue. I’m fairly certain that when the characters talk about “what good lies” someone tells in reference to tall tales, the translation should have been “what good stories” or “what good tales.”
Later on, there is a “ends justify means” message about lying. Trille, Lena, and his grandfather tell a string of lies to expedite their rescue of the aforementioned horse destined for the slaughter house. Trille is shocked by all the lying and his grandfather tells him, “Sometimes it’s all right to tell white lies, Trille.” I didn’t love this scenario in a book meant for 8-10 year olds. I would handle it with a discussion about how it lines up with what we believe as Catholics and how else the characters might have better handled the scenario.
Although most of the characters in this book are areligious, there’s a motif about a picture of Jesus. Trille’s Auntie Granny keeps a special picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd to remind her not to worry: he’s in control. After her death, Trille is allowed to pick anything from her entire house to keep for his very own. He chooses the special picture. Thenceforth, it’s a source of comfort to both him and Lena: a reminder that someone is watching over them. Kind of neat to see this in a secular book!
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