Estonian / Estonia
Halb tüdruk on jumala hea olla
(It’s damn good to be a bad girl)
Rõõmus, Jaan (illus.)
Tallinn: Varrak, . – 139 p.
Self-assertion | Autonomy | Rural life | Estonia | Soviet Union | History 1980s
White Ravens issue: 2017
Reading age: 10+
For eleven-year-olds everything seems an adventure, especially for a tough daredevil like Li. Estonian author, poet, and translator Kätlin Kaldmaa (b. 1970) adopts Li’s perspective as she portrays the girl’s self-assertive life in rural Estonia in the 1980s. Adults are kept at arms’ length, while Li and her siblings Lotta and Sass, as well as her best friend Taavi, explore and define their territory. Kaldmaa knows exactly what interests children, why they tell each other stories, what kind (spooky stories!), and how harshly they can treat each other. She employs an energized language to capture this. The book offers more, though: Li’s childhood unfolds during the time of the Estonian Soviet Republic, and readers gain subtle insight into the everyday realities of that period (working on a kolkhoz or hospital conditions). This might be why children and adults alike enjoy the book so much and why it is already in its second printing.