Childhood is full of contradictions. It’s a time of wonder and imagination, but it can also be lonely, and other kids can be downright cruel. Rarely are these contradictions more vibrantly or delicately explored than in Vivaldi , the latest release from the NYRB Children’s Collection.
Originally published in Norwegian in 2012, this English translation will introduce a new audience to the story of Tyra – a shy and musical girl relentlessly bullied at school – and Vivaldi, her brand new kitten.
This book is impossible to put in a box. Is it a graphic novel? Is it poetry? Award-winning poet Helge Torvund playfully and artfully blurs the lines between verse and prose, distilling for the reader the magic and loneliness in Tyra’s daily life. Some passages, like the one where Tyra names her cat, that are startlingly beautiful.
Alongside Torvund’s words, Mari Kanstad Johnsen’s colourful illustrations reveal Tyra’s rich and wonderful inner life, which though frequently rocked by her peers, can never be taken away. These rich and eclectic images bring us inside Tyra’s mind, where we’re immersed in her curiosity, anxiety, joy and sadness.
If any of this makes Vivaldi sound more like an adult-oriented book, rest assured – it’s not. But it is a children’s book of uncommon wisdom, creativity, and tenderness. There’s something for everyone in Tyra’s story, but this book will mean the most to kids who, like its protagonist, feel lonely or misunderstood. In Vivaldi , they might find the thing that Tyra longs for the most – connection.