I didn’t realize when I planned out this month we would be reading books from two countries I have traveled to recently back to back. Last week we read books from Belize, and this week we read books from Iceland, where my husband and I traveled during the summer 5 years ago.
We spent 11 days driving around the perimeter of Iceland staying at small hotels and hostels along the way. I was 13-14 weeks pregnant at the time, but didn’t let that stop us from hiking, playing on snowmobiles, being lowered down into an dormant volcano, and wandering around small towns and villages. We saw a lot of puffins as we traveled around, so I had to make sure I featured them this week. We got lucky and also happened to be there when Iceland was playing very well in the World Cup. The night they beat England we were in a tiny village, packed in the town hall/restaurant/bar with almost all the residents watching the game projected on a huge screen. When Iceland won, the whole place erupted in a boisterous rendition of their national anthem. We were lucky to be a part of it.
I was able to get my hands on a few books set in Iceland this week. Two by the same author, Bruce McMillan. He is not native to Iceland, but often summers there. He has written many books set in Iceland, so he’s a good author to look for if you’re looking for books set in Iceland.
If you know of any other great picture books set in, or about Iceland, please let me know so I can do a follow up post!
Lundi the Lost Puffin
“That night, I walked out of the burrow and into the world. I had to find some fish to eat.”
Narrated by a puffin from Iceland, Lundi the Lost Puffin, by Eric Newman, who often travels to Iceland, & Kronosmond, is a story based on true events that occur in Iceland every year. Lundi, a puffling, describes how he lived in a burrow built by his parents on the side of a cliff, and was cared for by his parents until one day he was left on his own to find food. When he sets off, he is confused about where to go and ends up in a town where he is caught by a caring child, checked out by the aquarium, and set free back at the ocean.
My girls loved learning about puffins, which they haven’t encountered before. They are now intrigued by these birds, as is my mom who often travels to the Pacific Northwest and has made it her goal to see a Tufted Puffin out there. I do wish there was a little more narrative to this story to connect some of the dots for us. We discovered in the back matter there are islands in Iceland who end up inundated with lost baby puffins each year. The children of the island care for them when they find them and take them to the Sea Life Trust, before releasing them into the ocean again.
I bought this book for this project when I couldn’t find it at any of our local libraries.
The Problem with Chickens
“The chickens were so busy acting like ladies that one day they stopped laying eggs.”
The Problem with Chickens, by Bruce McMillan, who summers in Iceland, and Gunnella, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, is a funny little tale about a group of Icelandic women who have no eggs for baking. To solve the problem they decide to buy some chickens, who quickly decide they want to live like the women and stop laying eggs. The women have to hatch a clever plan to coax the chickens into laying again.
My girls enjoy this fun, clever story, and also liked finding the chickens on each page. We recently got chickens who have not started laying yet, so we kind of understand the frustration of the women in the book. This has been a favorite at bedtime recently.
I borrowed this book from our local library.
“Early one evening the following week, Fridrik arrived in the tiny fishing village of Stykkisholmur. ‘Tomorrow we’re going fishing,’ said his mother’s father.”
Going Fishing, written and photo illustrated by Bruce McMillan, who summers in Iceland, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, is the story of Fridrik, a young boy who lives on the coast of Iceland who goes fishing with both of his grandfathers one summer. One grandfather fishes using reels, the other using nets.
This is a great book to read with any nature lover, or anyone who enjoys fishing. We learned a ton by reading the informative text, and looking at the photographs. My girls had so many questions! The narrative about the boy fishing with his two grandfathers kept this from being a dry nonfiction text.
I borrowed this book from our local library.
In The Blue Fox, by Icelandic author Sjon, translated by Victoria Cribb, published by Sceptre, Sjon writes ” In the halls of heaven it was now dark enough for the Aurora Borealis sisters to begin their lively dance of the veils[…].” Stunningly beautiful imagery like this appears frequently in this short 112 page novela about a reverend who is on the hunt for a rare blue fox, and a man who has spent his years taking care of a woman in the Reverend’s parish with Down Syndrome who has recently died. After her death, a package she was found with during childhood is opened to reveal how the three people are connected.
I enjoyed reading this book, which has been called a fable, a fairytale, and a thriller, and found myself unable to put it down at times. It reminded me of The Ice Palace, by Tarjei Vesaas, which I read for Norway, and The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey which is set in Alaska, USA, and I read at the end of last year. The book gave me a lot to think about including what makes us human and good vs. evil.
I’d love to hear what books, projects, artists, music, and other fun things you’d recommend from Iceland. Email me, message me, or comment/DM on Instagram.