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East of the East Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

29 Mar

EasterThis is the second collection of illustrated tales by the author of North of the North Wind. It has four stories and will delight imaginative children everywhere. The tender and touching ‘A Snow Ballerina in a Red Cap’ is set in the haunting marshy landscape that is home to the Japanese crane. The young Izumi learns about the cranes from her grandmother and befriends a baby crane. They grow up together, dance together. When she is older, Izumi goes to the city to become a maiko. Years later she returns to the marsh, is reunited with her old friend and dances with her – but all too briefly. ‘Monty and Mozart’ shows us a dog’s life – from a dog’s viewpoint. It has a little sting in the tail. In ‘Barbed Wire’ a young boy comes to understand what ‘the enemy’ means. The island where he lives is occupied, his school closed down and fenced around with barbed wire. Later it becomes a camp with prisoners. The boy tries to make contact with one – the outcome is ambiguous. ‘My Cinema’ – the magic of the silver screen in an incongruous setting, but real nonetheless to a small boy. These are four beautifully crafted but very different stories, which share their author’s qualities of knowledge, insight and compassion.

The blurb covers the stories in enough detail for me to not need to, which always makes for an interesting spoiler avoiding challenge for the book reviewer.  Luckily for you this intrepid reader has managed to do just that whilst sat in a coffee shop surrounded by all those novelists, readers of bestsellers and that token annoying child who causes havoc.

Throughout the book we are treated to all aspects of life, the good, bad and indifferent but above all a message there is the constant message to appreciate what we have when we have it.

A Snow Ballerina in a Red Cap is a story of growing up, loss and nature.  It’s sure to illicit many questions from children and despite its melancholy air, it is a strong start to the book.  The joys and sadness of time moving on, of nothing staying the same and growing up are all great life lessons and Izumi is a wonderful character who has that incisive logic that children seem to innately possess.  A beautiful and touching story.

Monty and Mozart is something different, a life viewed through the eyes of a dog.  Like a child, Monty is innocent and has no understanding of the decisions made around him but places his trust and love in his family.  This short chronicle about their lives together is perhaps my least favourite of the four but at the same time it has, for me the most emotionally satisfying ending.

Barbed Wire sees a child trying to understand the wider ways of an impenetrable and confusing adult world.  The shifting allegiances of history, the ambiguity of ‘the enemy’ and once again the transitory nature of things.  The fickleness of wars and the unspoken trust between people in extraordinary situations is an intriguing one, the ending left me thinking about what life held for one of the characters in the aftermath.

The final story My Cinema starts with the return of much sought after entertainment after the war and is a reminder of the wonders and luxury of escapism in the bad times. In these days with so much entertainment vying for our attention, it is hard to imagine a time when things were so different but as the story shows, it is not just the films that play a big part in our imagination but the memories we keep with us associated with such pleasures.

This book is the most serious in the series so far, it has a stronger air of melancholy to it, the stories are more strongly geared to life lessons which is a good thing to ground children for the inevitable changes in life but also sad that as adults we still wish things to remain grounded and safe like when we were young and never quite get out of that habit.

There is a gentle philosophy that is subtle to children but for adults achieves a more poignant juxtaposition, it’s a wonderful book to encourage children to look at different perspectives on life and encourages questions and as ever adults will be truly charmed by the stories and the accompanying illustrations.

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40 Comments

Posted by on 29/03/2016 in Children's Literature

 

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40 responses to “East of the East Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

  1. Jill Weatherholt

    29/03/2016 at 12:23

    “It is not just the films that play a big part in our imagination but the memories we keep with us associated with such pleasures.” I loved this line, Ste J. It sounds as though this book contains some meaningful stories. Thanks for the review. I really like the cover.

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    • Ste J

      29/03/2016 at 12:29

      The whole series has been a pleasure to read, I like that this one felt more emotionally challenging than the others, the unexpected is always pleasurable. The cover is wonderful, it’s one of those that demands stopping at and picking up the book.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  2. shadowoperator

    29/03/2016 at 13:43

    Forgive me, but I had forgotten that you said this series of books was of children’s stories! Are there four books, one for each of the four compass (wind) directions? I should recommend it to my nephew. Do you think that 13 is too old for a child to read these books as a first-time thing?

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    • Ste J

      29/03/2016 at 14:12

      There are three so far, naturally I am eagerly awaiting news of South of the South Wind. It is a strange age for children 13, some won’t like it as it is a simple read but some will appreciate it for how it is written, if your nephew isn’t a fan you can always keep it for yourself!

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  3. Liz

    29/03/2016 at 13:58

    I read via FaceTime with my niece Lucy, who is 9 – this series looks like a great one to add to our list, thanks.

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    • Ste J

      29/03/2016 at 14:10

      I thoroughly enjoy them, they stand up well to rereads as well being so short.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  4. Jessica @ Like Bears to Honey

    29/03/2016 at 14:50

    This seems right up my alley – I’ll have to look into it! How did you hear of these books? What made you decide to read them?

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  5. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    29/03/2016 at 15:36

    This sounds like something I should read 🙂

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  6. Andrea Stephenson

    29/03/2016 at 18:38

    These sound like wonderful tales Ste, I’m sure I would have loved them as a child.

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    • Ste J

      30/03/2016 at 08:22

      The beauty is they are wonderful to read for adults too, the whole series has been a joy to read and is a great counterpoint to all the heavier literature I tend to gravitate towards.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. macjam47

    29/03/2016 at 21:24

    Steve, I am so glad you reviewed this. I have both East of the East Wind and North of the North Wind on my desk. I haven’t read any of them yet, but I bought them after reading a review on another blog (forget which one). now, I really can’t wait to work my way down to them.

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    • Ste J

      30/03/2016 at 08:29

      You visit other blogs, I thought I was special! In all seriousness though I am glad to give you a reminder to read the other two, I have been spreading out my reviews of the series purposely for the reason to keep them in people’s mind. They are books you can’t help but read quickly, despite trying to temper your pace to make them last.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • macjam47

        30/03/2016 at 13:57

        You always make me smile. Your blog is one of my favorite stops for interesting posts. Have a wonderful readerly-writerly day, Steve!

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        • Ste J

          31/03/2016 at 07:55

          I shall try and vary it up a bit, recently book posts have been prevailing but it would be nice to get back to mixing it up, just to entertain you further with my ninja (but less supple) ways.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  8. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    29/03/2016 at 22:12

    All the four stories sound good to me. They have different viewpoints, but surely they would raise questions in a child’s mind and eventually helps her/him to understand the ‘world of adults’ better without affecting the innocence… 🙂

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    • Ste J

      30/03/2016 at 08:27

      That’s precisely it, lovely stories and a bit of education, it is good to prepare a child gently for life with some memorable stories and the whole series captures the wonders and curiosity of the world we live in.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  9. gargoylebruce

    29/03/2016 at 23:32

    This is the one of the series that I want to get my grubby paws on!

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    • Ste J

      30/03/2016 at 08:34

      It’s an effective contrast with the other books, I’m not sure which is my favourite of the three though…

      Liked by 1 person

       
  10. clarepooley33

    30/03/2016 at 02:17

    A good review Ste J and I like the cover too!

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    • Ste J

      30/03/2016 at 08:49

      There is something timeless about the cover, the simple drawing, the nature aspect, it’s an excellent read for the garden in Summer (as well as all other times of the year).

      Liked by 1 person

       
  11. Jilanne Hoffmann

    30/03/2016 at 19:47

    This book (and series) sounds magical. Must see if I can find them…

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    • Ste J

      31/03/2016 at 07:58

      They are available in all the usual places and are well worth a look, I have read each one twice, partly because they are a nice short read and partly because they are really lovely stories.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  12. Sarah

    31/03/2016 at 19:28

    I love the look of this and fortunately I have a child who is still just about in the age range to enjoy it (otherwise i’d have to admit to buying it for myself) from Sarah, age 47 1/4. 😉

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    • Ste J

      01/04/2016 at 16:39

      It helps that we are really just big kids looking for an excuse to read such stuff. Your age sounds like the back door entrance to the Hogwarts Express.

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  13. Resa

    31/03/2016 at 22:58

    I never heard of children’s stories like this. Understand, I know Mother Goose, Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Anderson, etc. However, I see from your review that children’s stories teach about life. Although the lessons learned in this book may be more sophisticated than the ones I know, they seem to impart similarities.
    You are so very well read, I feel red to comment.

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    • Ste J

      01/04/2016 at 16:51

      The lessons are great for kids and I think they help us adults remember them, bogged down as we are in life and all it’s stupid stresses. I do have a voracious appetite for different and obscure books and your comments are always most welcome, next time pop by in aquamarine, I think it would suit you more than red!

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Resa

        02/04/2016 at 00:54

        How sweet you are!

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      • Resa

        02/04/2016 at 00:55

        Oh, and I wanted to mention that I went from fairy tales to Nancy Drew to stealing Harold Robins novels from my mom’s cupboard. LOL!

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        • Ste J

          02/04/2016 at 09:58

          That last one is an unexpected leap but I like your style, I have read neither Nancy Drew or Harold Robbins so my reading education is still really incomplete, words I like to hear as it keeps me in books.

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  14. Liz Dexter

    01/04/2016 at 10:23

    Lovely story about you came to have the books, and they sound like very interesting reads. They’ve certainly struck a chord with your readers, too, haven’t they!

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    • Ste J

      01/04/2016 at 16:43

      I do admit to pushing these books, such is my appreciation for them. It was wonderful to get such a nice surprise with the books, I look forward to the next two that shall be coming to the blog later this year

      Like

       
  15. Love, Life and Whatever

    02/04/2016 at 16:37

    What’s fun without learning! When the messages are put subtly though through symbolism and depiction, the effect is far reaching both for grown ups and kids of course. Your reviews are so enlightening as it doesn’t just consist about book itself but dwells deeper into the aspects of how it influences a reader too.

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    • Ste J

      02/04/2016 at 17:57

      I am wary of spoilers so if I concentrate less on the plot and more on the deeper aspects or how I felt about it, it guarantees the potential reader won’t have spoilers. I don’t think we ever lose the need for books like these, we just forget and need a reminder.

      Like

       

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