Lena, the Sea and Me by Maria Parr is a Norwegian middle grade book that has been translated into English by Guy Puzey and published by Walker Books.
Having grown up together in Mathildewick Cove, a small town on the coast in Norway, Trille and his best friend Lena spent their childhood playing in the cove, planning daring adventures and heading out on the water in Trille’s grandad’s fishing boat. But this summer things start to change.
Lena is headstrong, impulsive and as wild as the sea. She lives for football and her position as goalkeeper in the town’s team is unquestioned, until a new coach arrives and begins to shake things up. On top of this, a new girl has arrived in the cove, Birgit, whose family have moved here from Holland. Lena does not warm to her and watches from the sidelines as it becomes clear that Trille likes her very much.
For Trille, he is struggling with football in a different way, battling against the expectation that every kid plays, at 12 years old he’s started to realise it just isn’t for him. When Birgit arrives he finds himself drawn to her and the wedge that her presence puts between Trille and Lena is executed beautifully by Parr in the subtle way that he becomes preoccupied with her before even he realises it.
Lena and Trille are on the cusp of puberty, a tricky time when they are still very much children at heart who like to adventure; diving into the water from the cove, sending messages in bottles out to sea and building rafts. However they’re gradually becoming aware of their childishness, and as they watch older family members getting older and younger ones arriving they recognise that they are growing up.
A story that is as full of adventure as it is heartwarming and set in such a unique place in the world, the descriptions of the cove and how it changes throughout the year are wonderful, you can almost taste the salty sea air and feel the wind on your face.
Buy Lena, the Sea and Me from Waterstones.
Many thanks to Walker Books for sending a copy of this book for review.