Vivaldi by Helge Torvund is the perfect book for back-to-schoolers with ‘dread in their little knees’. It tells the story of Tyra, a little girl whose classroom experience has left her sad and silent. Her interior life is gloriously vivid, but at school she feels unseen. She’s in need of a friend, and as all true cat lovers know, friendship often arrives in feline form, in this case with the bluest eyes Tyra has ever seen. With her new pet, supportive family, and the inspiring music of Vivaldi, maybe life can be different. If only it were that simple.
The story begins during the school summer holidays, that deliciously lazy time that seems to stretch into infinity. For Tyra, the new school term is an uneasy dot on the horizon and it’s for this reason that her concerned parents adopt the little gingery kitten.
‘As long as she didn’t give him a name, it was as if time stood still. As if summer vacation would never end…’
In this idyllic bubble, Tyra and the newcomer forge a bond. He is, in turn, a little rascal, a playmate, a purring comfort blanket. One particularly dreamy day in the garden, while gazing up at the sky, Tyra hears a cloud speak. ‘Vivaldi,’ it says, and lo, her cat is christened. Vivaldi reminds her of the classical music she listens to with her beloved grandma. Music is talking without using words,she thinks, just like being with her marvellous pet.
The evenings grow darker and September approaches with the scent of school. The lump is back in Tyra’s chest as she wonders whether this new term will be different.
Helge Torvund is a psychologist and poet, as well as a writer, it’s a wonderful combination. His lyrical tale beautifully captures Tyra’s sensitive spirit while his psychologist’s experience will suggest that sometimes a resolution requires more down-to-earth intervention.
Bold illustrations laden with symbolism complement this perceptive and lovely book, courtesy of Mari Kanstad Johnsen.
Vivaldi by Helge Torvund is published by The New York Review of Books, 96 pages.