In the wild west of Norway, awful things keep happening to Grampa Gloomifjord. But his grandchildren, the Sommerdal twins Brita and Ottar, live just the other side of Trollface Mountain and they always find a way to cheer him up.
Jonathan Wills’ new book of 12 bedtime stories is designed to be read to children from four to eight years old and, he says, has been bedside-tested on his own grandchildren.
“I got the idea from my old friend Kjell Wevling, who’s sailed his little boat across to Shetland from the west coast of Norway for over 30 years now. I once asked him why he left that magnificent landscape for our rather less dramatic islands. He replied: ‘I think it’s because it’s so gloomy in my fjord in the winter.’”
The book took Jonathan four years to write: “Much of it was scribbled longhand on planes and trains, going to visit my grandchildren in London and Prague,” he says. “I researched the local colour one January while staying at my friend Jorunn Hope’s log cabin on the island of Huglo, which is about 200 miles due east of my home island of Bressay but has forests, deer and a mountain.”
The dreadful events that befall Grampa Gloomifjord include: his hen blowing away; running out of logs for his stove; getting stuck on his chimney; being flown to hospital in a helicopter; waking up covered in a snowdrift; finding his house is falling into the sea; and being driven mad by biting midges. But the Sommerdal twins get him to look on the bright side, especially when those dark winter days make him very gloomy indeed.
The author says: “There’s plenty of action but it pans out quite slowly and the plots all end reassuringly. I think that’s important when you’re trying to get to sleep, whatever age you are.”
Jonathan’s delighted with the beautifully detailed illustrations by Martin Emslie, a retired Lerwick art teacher: “I’ve admired Martin’s work for many years and he seemed the perfect artist for this book. I think he’s done an excellent job,” he says.
Another book available on the webiste: Wilma Widdershins and da Muckle Tree