The boy's face on the front cover of this Norwegian picture book reflects anxiety and resignation; a child who knows he must soldier on, despite his fears. Garmann is six and he is afraid of starting school when summer ends. His three elderly aunts are visiting, so he asks them what they are afraid of. He asks his parents, too. Garmann also worries about not being able to do things that other kids do, like hold his head underwater while swimming. When will he lose his first tooth? At the end, Garmann goes off to school, still afraid. That is what gives this story such emotional resonance: we all must learn to cope with fear.
Stian Hole's digital collage illustrations evoke the timeless quality of his story. They incorporate photos, bits of Victorian-era illustration and mid-20th century imagery. The unsentimentality of the prose is the perfect counterpoint to the nostalgic and humourous art. A book for all ages.