Living on Troll Mountain
by Judith Olson

"The two girls were beside themselves, and they didn’t know what to do, as they were always told to never go up the mountainside because that is where the Trolls live."

This short story collection follows the maturation of three young girls in 1930s Norway. Each becomes acutely aware of the encroaching perils and wonders from beyond their simple countryside home at the foot of Troll Mountain. They reside near the small town of Star Lake. Maga (mother) and Paga (father) Peterson work hard to maintain their livelihoods, while their three daughters are free to explore and find adventure. Eleven-year-old Petrine and six-year-old Paiva (nicknamed Puzzy and Punky by their three-year-old sister Thora) experience dangers, mysteries, and moments of humor with Thora (Tully) in these interwoven narratives of their lives.

The book begins with an introduction from Petrine regarding Norwegian life with her sisters while also introducing the subsequent stories. In the opening tale, “Lost on Troll Mountain,” all three come face to face with troll children when Tully wanders too far from safety and into troll territory. “Baking Biscuits” finds Tully’s mischievous fun with dough nearly ruining their mother’s luncheon for the ladies of Star Lake. “Halloween” presents a frightening All Hallows Eve when a thick fog rolls through town, disorienting the sisters. And in both “Christmas Tree Outing” and “Fang,” the girls discover happiness and loss with their newly adopted wolf pup.

The fourteen fables in Olsen’s debut are reminiscent of the fairy tales of old which taught children lessons of the world’s marvels as well as its darkness. It is also a nice introductory exposure to Scandinavian culture and folk traditions. The stories are entertaining and clever with their own important messages subtly built within. While the book is not without its problems, overall the author’s collection is delightful and no doubt can be read and appreciated by anyone.

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