Matti lives in Finland is a junior title written by Astrid Lindgren with photos by Anna Riwkin-Brick. It was written in 1969 and refers inside to a Swedish edition–which I take to be the original–yet there was no mention of a translator or an original title. I believe I acquired this at a Sudbury library book sale in the late nineties, yet in spite of its brevity (I read it during this morning’s breakfast) I had never read it until now. No one else but one other person read it before me, as the pristine library card in the rear pocket showed that only Steve P. had signed it out.
It is a shame that the scenic photos were in black-and-white, but that’s what you got in 1969. Seven-year-old Matti lives on a farm yet craves an animal to call his own. Although he is surrounded by cows, pigs and sheep all the time, Matti would prefer a dog or a cat that his little neighbour Merja has. He fancies the young calf on his farm, and his father allows him to take care of it for a little while, yet soon sells it to Merja’s grandfather.
The story seemed innocent enough, with photos of Matti and Merja climbing trees, picking dandelions, walking the dog and having a sauna, until Matti and the grandfather have a conversation about the latter’s upcoming birthday party:
“Granddad, what would you like for your birthday?” asks Matti, for grandfather’s birthday is coming soon.
“Nothing,” says grandfather. “But I’m going to have a party, and everyone will be invited. You, too.”
“Then I can give you a few flowers at least,” says Matti.
“What will we have to eat?”
“Veal, I think,” says grandfather.
Veal! This story is going to end up a tale of horrors! Children will be traumatized, reading about the slaughter and consumption of Matti’s beloved pet.
The calf is spared the butcher’s knife when Merja convinces her grandfather to give it to Matti as a reward for saving her life when she fell into the water. Matti does give the grandfather a bouquet of flowers–poisonous buttercups, mind.