OLLIS BY INGUNN THON
Do you also love postcards and letters? What would you do if you found a postcard in a mysterious yellow mailbox in the middle of the forest? This is what happens to Ollis, a 10-year-old girl that loves adventures and has the wildest imagination. Her life will turn upside-down when she finds a postcard, and she will embark on a complicated journey in search of her own identity.
Ollis (short for Oda Lise Louise Inger Sonja) is an irresistible character in children’s literature and the first novel by the Norwegian scriptwriter and puppeteer (how fun is that!) Ingunn Thon. It is a heartwarming story that has already been awarded and shortlisted for many prizes in Norway (“Boksluker,” “Nynorsk”) and abroad (Premio Strega, Cilip Carnegie Medal).
Today, we travel “virtually” to Oslo to meet Ingunn and talk with her about the creative world behind Ollis, an exciting, touching, and funny story about friendship, new family members, the sense of belonging, and the search for unconditional love.
Without a doubt, Ollis – beautifully illustrated in black and white by Nora Brech– is one of our favorite readings for middle graders and independent readers. We cannot recommend this children’s book enough!
World Kids: Ingunn, Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Ingunn Thon: I am 35 years old. I live in Oslo, which is the capital of Norway, with my boyfriend and our son, who is two years old. I love pizza, dogs, raspberry and/or caramel anything, and working as a writer. I also work as a puppeteer for various children’s TV shows.
Also, my head is a bit big, so I find it hard to find bicycle helmets that fit.
Are there any particular authors that influenced you growing up? Did you have a favorite book in your childhood?
My mom would read a lot of Astrid Lindgren and a Norwegian author called Anne Cath. Vastly, to my brother and me. When I started reading myself, I became a huge Roald Dahl fan. And as there weren’t too many girl main characters at that time, Matilda and BFG were my favorites.
How was your childhood in Norway?
My childhood in Norway was very calm and safe. I grew up with my mom and an older brother in a small village called Vats. It was so tiny that there were only eleven people in my school. And I was the only one in my class. Could you imagine?!
My mom and dad separated when I was four, but he was a big part of our lives. So most of the time, I was in Vats, and sometimes I was in the city that my dad had moved to, Hamar. I think my childhood was a really good one, but that doesn’t mean it was carefree. I think sometimes grown-ups forget that even though children are easygoing, they too experience hard things because that is life for everyone. Big or small.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a creative writer?
I wasn’t any good at it at school, so I never thought it would be something for me. But in my early twenties, I learned that I had an interest in writing scripts for TV. That is my main job now. But I never thought I could write an entire book. Actually, I don’t think I really realized it before I had started writing Ollis. But as I got to know the characters, I enjoyed it, and it suddenly felt important to tell their stories. So I had to finish it!
Ollis is your first novel for children. Is there anything autobiographical in Ollis’ character?
That she grew up with her mother and that I too loved making things. And when I wrote about the forest they go into; I pictured the forest behind my childhood house. That’s it, I think. But there is a part of me scattered over every character in Ollis. My temper, my beliefs, my quirks, my joys, my fears… So you could maybe say that it is an emotional autobiography.
What are you working on now? Can you please tell us a little bit about your next project?
Actually, right now, I am back on my TV-writing job. A show called “Side by side,” the biggest family-comedy show in Norway. But I do hope I will manage to write a new children’s book on the side. I’m crossing my fingers for something in 2022.
Where do you find inspiration?
Often in my own life. For example, in memories, or emotions, or needs. I also find inspiration in other people’s lives or in my son. And in situations, I observe on the streets when I ride the bus to work. And sometimes, an idea will just pop up out of nowhere. It was exactly that way with the yellow mailbox in Ollis.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring authors?
Write the way you want to write. I didn’t think I could be a literary writer because I didn’t think I wrote like the books I read. But that is a good thing! It is what makes you special. If you wanna write a book in only capital letters. Good! If you wanna write a book entirely with rhymes. Perfect! Short sentences, long sentences, you decide! Don’t be afraid if you don’t fit a form, be free. That is what the literary world needs if you ask me. Hehe.
What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, I am working as a puppeteer, or I am playing with my son or watching movies with my boyfriend, or hiking in the mountains, or playing the piano and singing as loud as I can (only when I am alone).
What books are you currently reading?
Right now, I am reading a Norwegian book called “Hør her’a” (Listen up!) by Gulraiz Sharif.
Thank you, Ingunn, for sharing your creative world with World Kids! And a huge thank you too to our friends at Nórdica Libros for translating this exceptional novel into Spanish!