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Astrid Lindgren’s The Children of Noisy Village is told from the perspective of nine-year-old Lisa as she grows up in “Noisy Village,” a small group of three farms in the Swedish countryside that got its nickname because of all of the noisy children who live there. This cozy and amusing story details the lives of these six children throughout the course of a year as they go to school, play games, celebrate the holidays, and go crayfishing in the summer together. The Children of Noisy Village is full of exciting Nordic holiday traditions for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Easter.

Everyone’s the Smartest is a collection of 60 poems bound together with the central theme of school. Each poem takes the reader into the mind of a child as they recount charming and often humorous musings about elementary school life. The colorful illustrations by Ulla Saar capture the whimsical nature of these delightful poems. The author, Contra, says, “every illustration works as an extra verse of its poem.”

The Finnish fairy tale “The Hidden Maiden” is a bleak tale about an anthropomorphized kantele, a traditional Finnish string instrument, and an ancient castle that are haunted by a terrible secret. Deep within the walls lies a beautiful Swedish maiden, hidden there by her protectors from an attacking army that wished to steal her. Now all that remains in the empty, sad castle is an ash tree growing out of the stones where the maiden was hidden. This story uses illustrative language to bring to life the isolated castle and the melancholy music of the kantele. 

“The Magic Maiden” is a supernatural fairy tale from Estonia. In this story, in the middle of a fancy dinner party, a rich woman declares that she will adopt a peasant girl, Elsa, as a playmate for her daughter Kiisiki. The woman has a mysterious old man make a clay doll version of Elsa, brought to life with a drop of her blood, to send back to Elsa’s village in her stead so that her parents will not realize their real daughter is missing. This short story comes from the collection Wonder Tales from Baltic Wizards: Pagan Mythology, Shamanism, and Magic from Finland, Lapland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania written by Frances Jenkins Olcott.

The Lithuanian folk tale “Poor Man and Never-Enough” demonstrates the importance of being honest and generous, as greed leads to perpetual dissatisfaction. The story begins with a poor man who accidentally drops his iron axehead into a river while chopping down a tree. Distraught over losing a way to make income without an axe, he meets an old man who comes to his aide and dives into the river to retrieve his axehead. The old man fishes out a golden axehead and a silver one, but the poor man waits patiently for the one that truly belongs to him. The poor man’s greedy neighbor, “a Never-Enoug,” hears about this encounter and tries to swindle the old man for a golden axehead. 

The Latvian folk tale “Little White Dog” is a charming, magical tale of a beautiful maiden who marries a prince disguised as a dog. The maiden is treated harshly by the cruel woman she lives with, forced to do endless household tasks to keep the woman happy. When met with an impossible task to get water from the well “without wetting the bucket,” the girl is greeted by a little white dog that magically appears to help her. All the dog asks for in return is her hand in marriage. She agrees but is later arranged to marry a man of the wicked woman’s choosing. The little white dog crashes the wedding to remind the maiden of her promise with a catchy rhyme and then transforms into a handsome prince.

Sven Nordqvist’s Findus Moves Out is the humorous tale of two friends learning to live with one another’s quirks. Findus is a rambunctious cat who enjoys waking up his human, Pettson, by bouncing around the room at four o’clock in the morning. On such a morning Pettson gives Findus an ultimatum, stop jumping around the room so early in the morning or move out. The headstrong Findus decides that he would rather move out than give up his early morning hops. Pettson, who is taken aback by this decision, helps his friend move out into the old outhouse in the garden. After fixing up the place, Findus loves his new home without rules and wants to do everything on his own.

Anna’s Heaven, written by Norwegian author Stian Hole, is both whimsical and melancholic. The story follows Anna and her father after the loss of Anna’s mother. Anna’s father is in a hurry to get somewhere, though it is never specified in the story. He wears a black suit and carries flowers, so one can imagine that the two might attend the funeral for Ana’s mother. In contrast, Ana is not in any hurry and she is seen playing on a swing, wearing a yellow polka dot dress. As the two make their journey, Anna sees all the beauty around her.

"The Magic Ring" is a modern-day adaptation of a traditional folktale from Latvia about a young boy named Vadim who is given a magic ring. Vadim is poor and lives on a small farm with his father. One morning, his father sends him to the market to get some bread. Along the way, Vadim comes across someone who is beating a dog in the street and gives them money to leave the dog alone. He lies to his father and says that he didn’t have enough money to buy any bread. His father sends him back to the market several days in a row, but Vadim keeps saving animals from their abusers by using what little money they have and going hungry for dinner as a result. After he has already saved a dog, a mouse, and a cat, he uses his final coins to save a snake. Not to abandon him doomed to starve, the snake thanks him for his kindness by giving him a magic ring that will grant him anything he wishes.

The Children of Noisy Village
Everyone's The Smartest
The Hidden Maiden
The Magic Maiden
The Poor Man and Never Enough
Little White Dog
Findus Moves Out
Anna's Heaven
The Magic Ring
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