Babbis Friis-Baastad Essay - Critical Essays

Friis-Baastad, Babbis


Babbis Friis-Baastad 1921–1970

(Has also written under the names Eleanor Babbis and Babbis Friis) Norwegian young adult novelist. Like many young adult and children's authors, Friis-Baastad began her literary career by telling and writing stories for her own children. Her audience gradually widened and she eventually found herself contributing on a regular basis to children's radio broadcasts in the 1950s. Her best known books, Kristy's Courage and Don't Take Teddy, are unsentimental treatments of young adults coping with mental and physical handicaps. Friis-Baastad became interested in this topic through her acquaintance with a handicapped child. Her interest in this field grew as she began an intensive study to gain background for her fiction and culminated in the publication of Du ma vakne Tor, which translates as "Wake up, Tor," and was written for an audience of mentally handicapped young adults. This book was quite controversial in Scandinavia, with some critics feeling that the text was too complex for its audience. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 17-20, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 7.)

When seven year old Kristy wakes up in the hospital after having been hit by a car, she does not realize how deformed she will seem to the outside world. It is only after she goes, in typical excitement, to her first day at a new school that Kristy, taunted and stared at by the other children, begins to think of her facial scar as ugly…. The author [of Kristy's Courage] has a rare gift for conveying a child's sensitivity in a way other children will be able to understand. There are moments of real humor and tenderness and (most unusual) snatches of very real sounding adult conversation, the sort every child overhears…. [This] is a realistic treatment of a situation some children experience and it is movingly told. (p. 678)

Virginia Kirkus' Service, July 15, 1965.

Anne Izard

[Kristy's Courage] is a realistic story of the thoughtless cruelty that can make tragedy for children. Kristy learns not to run away but to face life. Her story will hold all children and make them think. (p. 5076)

Anne Izard, in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal, November 15, 1965; published by R. R. Bowker Co. (a Xerox company); copyright © 1965 by Xerox Corporation), November 15, 1965.

Margaret Berkvist

Probing the subject [of youngsters adjusting to physical disabilities] with complete honesty and a lack of sentimentality, the Norwegian author Babbis Friis begins ["Kristy's Courage"] as Kristy is recovering consciousness following an automobile accident. Though time will mend the child's injuries, for the present she must live with a scarred face and distorted speech…. Miss Friis's readers will appreciate her understanding of how cruel the world can be to children on occasion. (p. 26)

Margaret Berkvist, in The New York Times Book Review (© by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 12, 1965.

Kersti is a young girl who is involved in a car accident. As a result she is left with a horrible scar on her cheek which turns up one side of her mouth into a permanent smile. This story tells of the troubles she has in coming to terms with her scar and the way her friends and school-fellows react. [Kersti, published in the United States as Kristy's Courage,] is quoted as being "a study in child psychology for girls interested in teaching and nursing." This is rather a narrow field but it is a fairly accurate description of the type of readership who will enjoy it. The book is too adult in its approach for the younger reader, and the main character is too young for the older reader. It is a well-written, deep-thinking book but can hardly...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Zena Sutherland

[Don't Take Teddy] is quite a remarkable book, because the author teaches a lesson without preaching. In Mikkel's love for his brother there is a realistic embarrassment but no shame; there is a realistic range of reactions from people he meets, and a realistic acceptance of the limits of the educability of the retarded. The book is a plea for understanding, but the plea is not made directly by the author; by having the story told by Mikkel, the communication is more direct and most touching. (p. 100)

Zena Sutherland, in Saturday Review (© 1967 by Saturday Review Inc.; reprinted with permission), April 22, 1967.

Margaret A. Dorsey

Mikkel's first-person account [in Don't Take Teddy] communicates the tension and the strain of a very real boy over-reacting to a responsibility he's too young to cope with or fully understand. Although his series of problems tend toward repetitive similarity, the book is an active adventure novel, not at all obscured by its message, one that can reach any reader who may ever undertake the care of a more helpless being. (p. 56)

Margaret A. Dorsey, in School Library Journal (reprinted from the May, 1967 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co. A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1967), May, 1967.

Greta Walker

Mrs. Friis-Baastad presents [in "Don't Take Teddy"], with commendable directness, the wrenching problems of the family with a retarded child. Teddy, with a mental age of 2 1/2, has been lovingly protected by his parents and younger brother from the hostility and ridicule of outsiders. In the end a nurse specializing in retardation, whom the runaways meet on their journey, convinces the family that Teddy can be helped to find his own strengths—not by being shielded and kept at home, but by going to special schools that will develop, as much as possible, his mind and muscles. Although the plot is forced, the author does contribute to understanding in a neglected area. (p. 30)


(The entire section is 236 words.)

Zena Sutherland

While [Wanted! A Horse!] doesn't have the strong story line or the dramatic impact of the author's Don't Take Teddy! it has the same sympathetic, no-nonsense understanding of children and a smooth writing style, and it is particularly sensitive to the relationships with a family and the effect that home situations and external relationships have upon each other. (p. 122)

Zena Sutherland, in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (© 1972 by the University of Chicago; all rights reserved), April, 1972.

(The entire section is 78 words.)

Zena Sutherland

Twelve-year-old Svein is disappointed at not getting the horse he'd hoped to receive as a birthday present. But he cheers up when he hears he can take riding lessons at a reduced rate in return for working in the stables. Save for the malicious behavior of another boy and Svein's friendship with two sisters, [Wanted! A Horse!] has little plot. It is, however, filled with incidents that have action and appeal. Svein's family relationships, and the problems the two sisters face in adjusting to their parents' recent divorce and to a new home are described with considerable realism and commendable restraint. (p. 84)

Zena Sutherland, in Saturday Review (© 1972 Saturday...

(The entire section is 114 words.)

Rose S. Bender

Despite the title [Wanted! A Horse!], horse enthusiasts will not find much to satisfy them in this muddled story. Friis has woven together the standard strands: silly, non-understanding parents; two young girls whose family has been broken by divorce and whose relationship to the hero, Svein, is both nebulous and contrived; and some sophisticated and unmotivated teenagers, including one whose behavior is meant to be an example of modern destructiveness…. Even the addition of a touch of mystery fails to produce the desired suspense, and the denouement is slow, unclear and boring. (p. 2960)

Rose S. Bender, in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal,...

(The entire section is 118 words.)