Moa lives on the second floor. She has her own room, her own bed and her own window from which she can see the whole world. Moa’s mum lives in the aquarium in the living room, because Moa’s mum is a fish. A lovely, big goldfish.
Moa thinks she is the most beautiful fish in the world. But how does the outside world relate to a little girl who lives alone with a goldfish? And how does Moa deal with the loneliness and all the everyday tasks that children of her age don’t usually have to think about?
Gro Dahle and Svein Nyhus’ new picture book is their first collaboration since God natt, natt from 2009. It can be read as an allegory for a deficit of parental care – a girl who must care for her mother rather than the other way round. But it can also be read as a magical and absurd everyday story.
Akvarium is both a sensitive and difficult book with a difficult and painful theme.
‘We meet Moa, who lives and breathes for the fish in the aquarium in her living room. For it is here that the fish Moa calls Mum lives. [...] The story of Moa and her mother is an elevated allegory where we quickly sense that the fish represents her mother. The story of Moa is the painful tale of a child burdened with care responsibilities that exceed their capabilities. Read as such, Akvarium is a painful and sombre side of a reality that unfortunately affects some children.’
‘Akvarium is more subtle that many of their other books (Gro Dahle and Svein Nyhus), and is sure to provoke some people. But it is heartbreaking. [...] Dahle’s text is clear yet poetic, simple yet also full of meaning. [...] The interplay between light and dark in the illustrations is also a good indication of how Moa is doing. When she is at school, the colours are light, but at home, they are dark. The exception is the illuminated aquarium that draws all of our focus.’
‘Gro Dahle and Svein Nyhus have created a powerful and poetic children’s picture book about neglect. […] Gro Dahle has written a well thought-out text. She writes very beautifully and concisely. […] Anyone who has suffered neglect will recognise the feeling immediately. That is why the book is also very powerful. […] Akvarium is an unmistakably serious Norwegian tale, masterfully written and illustrated. This is great art, unusually precise and matter-of-fact.’
‘Gro Dahle and Svein Nyhus have done it again: ventured into the darkest areas of the world of small children and created moving poetry from what they saw. […] Dahle’s sensitive handling of the linguistical possibilities is also beautiful in this book. There are no unnecessary words. Even when she repeats certain words several times one after the other, it is with intent and to increase the tempo and intensity. […] She also succeeds in portraying how children are generally formidably loyal to their parents, how adaptable they
are, how much they can endure and how important it is that external care workers are able to read between the lines. The ambiguity of this book, in that we are never explicitly told what the mother’s problem is, is a strength. […] Together, the text and illustrations create a challenging, moving whole.’
‘[…] a beautiful book that is simultaneously magnificent, lyrical,imaginative and a little scary. […] On one level, it is a story about neglect in which Moa must take care of her mother instead of the reverse. But it is also a king of magical fable from everyday life that uses a short text and large, fantastical illustrations to open a door into the realm of fantasy.
Because although this is at heart a dark and sombre story, there is something in the illustrations this time that – without excusing the story – also speaks more gently about what is painful and difficult.’