When the Snow Fell

When the Snow Fell

4.0 2
by Henning Mankell

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Joel is growing up. He is getting interested in girls. Just look at his New Year's resolutions: 1 - to see a naked lady, 2 - to toughen himself up so that he can live to be a hundred, and 3 - to see the sea. They all look pretty impossible for a motherless boy in Northern Sweden. Especially as his sailor dad is keen to drown his sadness in drink, and all the local…  See more details below


Joel is growing up. He is getting interested in girls. Just look at his New Year's resolutions: 1 - to see a naked lady, 2 - to toughen himself up so that he can live to be a hundred, and 3 - to see the sea. They all look pretty impossible for a motherless boy in Northern Sweden. Especially as his sailor dad is keen to drown his sadness in drink, and all the local matrons are narrowly watching the pair of them. And then he saves old Simon from a frozen death in the woods, and Joel becomes a local hero.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Steven Kral
Joel Gustafson, a fourteen-year-old growing up in a small town in northern Sweden during the 1950s, makes a set of New Year's resolutions to celebrate the first snowfall. He resolves to live to be one hundred, to see the sea, and, within the next year, to see a woman naked. Joel expects to have to overcome a few obstacles to complete his resolutions. It's the obstacles he did not expect that force him to reevaluate his relationships with people around him, his view of the world, and his hopes for the future. Extremely well written, Mankell's prose occasionally verges on poetry. His descriptions are vivid enough for the reader to almost feel the cold in the Swedish air, and his characters act and read like real people rather than constructs to move the plot forward. Especially deft is the portrayal of Joel's father's relapse into alcoholism after a failed love affair. Mankell shows both Joel's and his father's realization of each other's responsibility in what has been a cycle of recoveries and relapses. Ultimately this book is a vivid and carefully crafted portrait of a young teen. Although there is a plot involving Joel's efforts to complete his resolutions and a harrowing rescue during a blizzard, Joel's internal struggles and realizations are the meat of the novel. The novel might not appeal to reluctant readers, but many will find parts of themselves in Joel. Reviewer: Steven Kral
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Joel Gustafson celebrates New Year's on the first day of snowfall rather than being tied to a calendar. The resolutions that he makes in the church graveyard at the stroke of midnight include the following: live to be 100 years old, which will require toughening himself up; solve his father's "big problem," namely that he is a lumberjack but was meant to be a sailor; and, finally, see a naked woman. He manages the third resolution in the course of this sequel to A Bridge to the Stars and Shadows in the Twilight, but readers will have to wait and see about the other two. Thirteen year old Joel has more on his plate than one would wish; his mom abandoned the family years ago, and his dad is prone to drinking binges, straining further their meager income. But he also has more typical problems—negotiating his first kiss, not liking school very much, and having a crush on an older woman. He becomes a hero in his small Swedish village when he saves an old man from freezing to death, but the man eventually dies anyway and that typifies the tenor of this tale. This is a very slow paced book with much of the story taking place in Joel's head and in small deeds; hence, it is potentially limited in appeal among the age group targeted. Thoughtful, compassionate, and introspective, Joel may be a character that appeals more to girls. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 7–9—While this is a companion to A Bridge to the Stars (2007) and Shadows in the Twilight (2008, both Delacorte), it is not necessary to have read those novels to understand the action and characters in this story. Joel, 14, is certain of two things: life gets more complicated over time, and winter always arrives unexpectedly. With the New Year approaching, he visits a graveyard to make three resolutions: to live to be 100 years old, to see the sea for the first time, and to see a naked woman. Enduring a winter night outside, trying to find a way to move away from his slowly decaying town, and seeking out the new shopkeeper's assistant are only a few incidents that follow. An awkward encounter with a classmate brings intense embarrassment, which is followed quickly by Joel's heralded heroic actions in an unrelated event. At times as spare and chilly as the Swedish winter, this book is an affecting portrayal of a young man's maturation and the difficulties of a troubled father-son relationship. Although the story is set in 1950s rural Sweden, readers will relate to Joel's mixed feelings about his father, his budding sexuality, and the fluidity of the humiliation and admiration that are bestowed upon Joel by his peers. Admittedly, the book's audience might be limited to mature and thoughtful readers who don't need constant action to keep the pages turning, but libraries that hold Mankell's related titles will want to add this one.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Joel (A Bridge to the Stars, 2007, and Shadows in the Twilight, 2008) is now almost 14 and feeling all the bewildering emotions that growing up entails. He leads a rich inner life, filled with wild dreams and endless imagination. Along with his yet-unachieved goal of getting his father to return to a seafaring life, he resolves to live to be 100, to see a naked woman, to become a rock star and to see the sea. He sets about reaching these goals in his own inimitable way. Although part of him wants to hold on to pieces of childhood, he finds maturity and gains insights as he plunges from one misadventure to the next. Mankell employs a third-person stream of consciousness, allowing Joel's thoughts to roam unchecked and uncensored. There is a natural flow in the syntax, translated by Thompson from the Swedish, and the author treats Joel with empathy and kindness. This third entry in the series is more successful than the second; readers will reconnect with Joel's essence and wonder what the next year will bring. (Fiction. 12-16)

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Product Details

Andersen Press, Limited
Publication date:
Joel Gustafson Series , #3
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
12 Years

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When the Snow Fell

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When the Snow Fell 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
On the first snowfall of the year, 14-year-old Joel always makes his New Year's resolutions. This year he's made three: live to be 100, patch up his relationship with his father, and see a girl naked. Life keeps getting in the way, however, of him reaching his goals. His father is a lumberjack who goes on drinking binges and seems unhappy with life. His mother abandoned them years ago. To add to his plate, he's trying to navigate girls, first kisses, bullies, and having a crush on an older woman. Will Joel reach his resolutions amongst all his problems? A slower-paced book, but the author does a good job of constructing its main characters. The plot is intriguing and will appeal to middle school boys, who will be able to relate to Joel's struggles. Readers who like realistic fiction and coming-of-age stories will enjoy reading WHEN THE SNOW FELL.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago