The schoolmaster always says “speak up!”
Mom always says, “Don’t be shy!”
Grandpa says, “Ignore them, it’s nice with quiet, pretty girls.”
But I’m more quiet and angry. Like a shark.
The schoolmaster wants all children to speak in a loud and clear voice. He wants all children to be octopuses that put up all their eight arms at the same time. He doesn’t understand that there are sharks too. Sharks are quiet, they say nothing. They swim around and do whatever they want. No one dares to argue with them, no one dares to say “SPEAK UP” to a shark. And when I want to sit alone and read during recess and the schoolmaster asks “Are you sad, Jenny?” I could just answer “Sharks like to swim alone.”
Jenny is in second grade and loves to read, most of all she likes to read about sharks. When Jenny’s mum works late at the hospital Jenny stays with her friend Amina who lives in the same house. Amina likes to draw and together they can sit quietly and read and draw for hours.
Jenny’s grandfather on the other hand does not enjoy his solitude. He misses grandma and the house where he lives has become a grandma museum. All he does is to browse through old photo albums and talk about grandma’s hair and her curlers. Perhaps Jenny and Amina help him move on?
And perhaps the shark in the aquarium, where they go on a class trip, can help people understand how good it is with someone who is like Shark-Jenny? That one does not actually need to be able to speak loudly to get by in life.
Debutant Lisa Lundmark accurately depicts the child’s experience of not getting to be yourself and be left alone. With humour and heart, she portrays different kinds of loneliness; the chosen and the forced and what they do to us humans.
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Slangbellan Award Motivation:
“With her approachable voice and subtle humor, Lisa Lundmark portrays the great challenge in life to dare to be yourself. Even if you’re don’t want to take up a lot of space and talk loudly in the classroom like everyone else. The playful symbolism with the shark is felicitous and perfectly portrays a child’s imagination.”
- Slangbellan debut Award
Special mention - premio Rodari (Italy)
Premio Strega 2022 - longlisted