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Elin á Rógvi and Marjun Reginsdóttir (ill.)

Elin á Rógvi and Marjun Reginsdóttir (ill.): Og mamma! Novel, Bókadeildin, 2014.

Og mamma! (“Oh, my dear mother!”, not translated into English) is a seven-chapter book for listeners and readers aged 3 and up. Author Elin á Rógvi was born in 1976. She has worked as a producer for Faroese children’s radio, and in 2007 she published a children’s crime novel. Og mamma! is set at the turn of the year, from New Year’s Eve to 2 January, and follows a grandfather, his wife, and the two grandchildren who are staying with them, Viggo, 4, and the slightly older Pauli.

The invisible friend motif seen in many children’s books is embodied here in the form of a rooster in red dungarees who comes quite suddenly into the grandfather's well-ordered life. He appears for the first time as a red spot on the lawn when the grandfather looks out the window. Since no one else in the family sees the same thing, he tries to forget it. But the rooster is persistent. On New Year’s morning he comes into the house. Before the grandfather can do anything about it, the rooster is standing on the table, drinking his coffee, and pecking at his breakfast as he introduces himself and explains that he has just left home. He immediately proceeds to build himself a house in the middle of the lawn. Lather, when he begins to crow, the grandfather rushes out to get him to quieten down before he wakes the grandmother. In their subsequent chat, the rooster explains that it’s his cock-a-doodle-doo day, which means that he has found his cock-a-doodle-doo for the first time and must therefore visit his mother. The chat ends with the grandfather babysitting the eggs that the rooster had promised to look after for his sister. The eggs are brought indoors and watched overnight. The next day the grandmother is busy boiling eggs. The grandfather is beside himself until he sees that the eggs in the pan have red numbers on them. He puts the rooster’s eggs in his pocket and goes outside. One egg breaks in his pocket and the first chick hatches. Soon all the chicks hatch.

We’re told about the grandfather’s experiences, as well as how he tells others about them and how they react. For instance, the grandmother asks what the grandfather has put on the lawn – a hen-house perhaps? He answers in the rooster’s words, that it is a rooster house: “...a single cabin, a man cave, a bachelor pad,” prompting the grandmother to ask him to stop talking nonsense. Pauli thinks that the grandfather sounds like his little brother. The doctor next door, Hilmar, thinks that the chirping of the chicks is the grandfather’s mobile ringing in his pocket. What else could it be? Viggo doesn’t criticise his grandfather’s story, but would much rather talk about his own amazing experiences and ideas than listen to his grandfather. In this way the individual characters each tell their unique stories. Towards the end, however, the various perceptions of reality are ratcheted up a level and now the grandmother actually sees the big magnificent rooster and allows him to stay. Not least because he had already promised grandfather not to wear dungarees and utter nothing more than a cluck when grandmother is around. Nevertheless the rooster, who compulsively ends every sentence with the words “oh, my dear mother”, is talkative. He talks even when grandmother is there. The equally talkative Viggo, who has a few bad speech habits of his own, such as saying “and you know what?” with every sentence, tells his grandmother that the rooster can speak but that his grandfather has asked it only to cluck whenever she’s around. The polyphony of voices in which everyone gives their opinion but no one speaks over anyone else may therefore long continue. This means we have a lot more to laugh at and think about than we would if just one voice were dictating everything.

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Sigurður Ólafsson
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Elisabet Skylare
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