Children’s literature has a rich tradition of stories of very tiny people looking at our world from a very different vantage point. Scandinavian authors have contributed some of the most beloved fairytales of this type. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, Thumbelina, and Children of the Forest all come to mind. Now there is The Tiny Wish to add to that list.
The Tiny Wish chronicles the summer adventures of Anja. Anja first appeared in The Christmas Wish, a story of an adventurous little girl who goes in search of Santa Claus. Along the way, she is helped by, and helps, Arctic animals as she travels the snowy far north.
Anja’s new adventures take place among green grass and moss and flowing streams. She is playing hide-and-seek, unsuccessfully, with her cousins. She wishes she were tiny so she wouldn’t be found so easily. Her wish is granted and Anja’s explorations of her familiar world, now filled with gigantic, meal-sized strawberries, and birds that can take your for a ride, are joyful and engaging.
Lori explains the inspiration for the tale: “I became enamored of the idea of tiny worlds when I began to visit Norway almost 30 years ago and started hiking in the mossy forests there. I love to imagine exploring the lush microworlds of a patch of moss, or in the crack of a giant boulder. The idea of The Tiny Wish was born the summer after we started shooting The Christmas Wish; Anja was playing in her grandmother’s garden in Norway with a tiny doll that resembled her, and she put a leaf of lady’s mantle on the doll for a hat.”
The home of Anja’s Norwegian grandmother, Per Breiehagen’s mother, inspired the adventures in the story. Lori says, “The cousins in the book are Anja’s real cousins, and the horse is Per’s mom’s next-door-neighbor’s horse. We are so fortunate to have so many amazing resources like those and the architecture and landscapes that inspire these books.” Per’s photography showcases the beauty of the landscape without ever losing the importance of our heroine’s actions. This makes the story accessible to a wide age-range of children.
Every page shows Anja having an adventure, which engages children who can listen and follow a story line. But those of us who read to squirmy little people who have no patience for text can engage them by looking for details, such as the butterflies that appear throughout the book or finding the reindeer antlers mounted on the front of buildings.
Birds and squirrels play an important role in the story. Unlike Anja, who takes direction well according to her mother, the wildlife wasn’t as compliant.
“The squirrel was the most difficult animal to photograph. Per’s mother cuts bread, saves scraps and buys seed for the birds, squirrels and deer, so these animals visit her yard all day every day. Per had to be very patient with that young squirrel, even more so than with the birds, because the squirrel was skittish and fearful,” says Lori.
Anja was more than a model for the pictures; she actively contributed to the creation of the story. When the family went on hikes to shoot for the book, mother and daughter took their own photographs alongside Per, and would reference those photos later as they worked on the story. While all of the adventures look like great fun if one could really become tiny, the one that appeals most to Anja is “flying on the bird’s back, because I would love to fly like a bird, and that is something I could never do in real life.”
If you’d like to meet the creative family behind The Tiny Wish, Anja, Lori, and Per will be at Ingebretsen’s this Saturday, February 14 from 1 to 3. If you would like a signed book, they will be available for purchase or you may bring a previously purchased book with an Ingebretsen’s receipt.
– Carstens Smith