Why doesn't Berra have a grandfather? And how can he get one? Ulf suggests that there are plenty of old men at the retirement home. Berra and Ulf go there together to find one—ideally one who eats pig's trotters, invites you to tea, and can teach you to whistle.
A funny, sensitive, illustrated chapter book about a friendship across generations. Stark's writing covers every emotion, sometimes in the same sentence. Please see the Kirkus Review below for a more in depth description of the storyline, including sensitive information.
Hardcover, 80 pages. 5.7 x 8 inches.
"We looked out over the world and spat our cherry stones on the ground. And Grandpa Ned didn't want to leave. 'Here we are sitting, just like in heaven,' he said, taking the last red cherry out of his hat."
From the publisher, Gecko Press:
"Our first release for 2021 is one of the world's perfect stories: Can You Whistle, Johanna? by Ulf Stark and illustrated by Anna Höglund.
This is the first book we bought English-language rights for, 15 years ago—still fresh, resonant and funny—available in a beautiful new edition for its first release in North America this spring.
Can You Whistle, Johanna? has all the things we look for in the books we publish at Gecko Press: drama, humour, human behaviour, character, plot, emotion and warmth. There are many layers and connections that make it a satisfying and lasting read. It is the kind of book that stays with you for life."
"When his friend Ulf describes the fun he has with his grandfather, Berra wishes for his own grandfather. To find him one, Ulf brings Berra to an old folks home, where they meet Ned, and Berra introduces himself as his grandson. Ned is lonely, so he willingly accepts the relationship. They have tea with the other residents, to whom Ned proudly introduces his newly acquired grandson. At first, recalling Ulf's tales, Berra asks Ned for money, which he gladly gives. After several more visits, Ned takes them to the park, where Ned builds a kite made from sticks and his wife's silk scarf while speaking lovingly about his wife, Johanna, and whistling the pretty tune that is also the title of this book. Berra's relationship with Ned grows deeper. He tries to whistle just like Ned and plans a birthday surprise for him that pleases and delights the old man. Ned tires easily and gets confused and lost, but the 7-year-olds don't really see the ramifications. Berra waits until he can whistle before his next visit but discovers that Ned has died. In a tribute to his adopted grandfather, he whistles his favorite song for him at his funeral. In this Swedish import, the author's namesake Ulf, who is observer, participant, and good friend, narrates the tale in a direct, matter-of-fact tone. Höglund's deceptively simple, colorful cartoons beautifully capture the characters' emotions and actions. Characters present white. A sweet, tender, never maudlin evocation of an intergenerational friendship." ~ starred, Kirkus Reviews
"5+. One of those rare perfect ones." ~ Youth Services Book Review
About the Author & Illustrator:
Ulf Stark (1944-2017) is one of the world's great writers. He is author of more than 30 books for children and has won many prizes for his stellar work. He was shortlisted for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2018.
Anna Höglund is one of Sweden's foremost illustrators, who has written her own books as well as illustrating the work of other leading authors, and received many international awards.