What the Heart Remembers

Sortland, Bjørn & Kramer, Hilde: Det hjertet husker

Nominated for the 2009 Brage Award

Leonarda is a little girl who lives with her family in Mexico City. Her best friend is her sister Eva – but Eva is in the hospital, very ill. Every Friday Leonarda goes with her mother to clean the floors of a large blue house. While her mother works, Leonarda walks around in the house, which is full of strange things and paintings that she is not allowed to touch. Many of the paintings are portraits of the same lady. One day the lady starts talking to Leonarda. Her name is Frida, and they start sharing secrets with each other. Such as that Leonarda is afraid her sister will die, and that Frida is sick and has a big boyfriend called Diego. And while Leonarda helps Frida put on her lipstick, Frida comforts Leonarda when she suddenly starts crying.

WHAT THE HEART REMEMBERS is a simple and moving story of a child coming to terms with the reality of death, through an imagined dialogue with Frida Kahlo. The book is beautifully illustrated with collage pictures that incorporates elements and motives from Kahlo’s own paintings.

Praise for What the Heart Remembers:

"So beautiful it hurts. This is an extraordinarily beautiful book (...) In this year's book, [Bjørn Sortland] and Hilde Kramer have found an unusually good way of presenting both art and an artistic project (...) What the Heart Remembers is a book that needs time. A book that can be read over and over again, with great benefits. (...) Sortland and Kramer's enthusiasm for the artist oozes from every page, which, by the way, is of the finest paper quality and asks to be touched, seen, smelled."

"thorougly done, and a very true presentation of an essential artist. The themes are life and death, in a book which will probably be read just as much by grown up readers as by children"

" What the Heart Remembers is a picture book so delicious it should be pressed and consumed as a smoothie. (...) Using Kahlo’s own pictures as a starting point, Hilde Kramer has borrowed motifs or details from Kahlo’s well-known paintings and elaborated on them. The result is picture collages which keep the reader occupied for a long time. A kind of meta play develops, where familiar icons are portrayed in a new way and combined with other elements. For those of us who have a pop cultural knowledge of Kahlo’s works only, there is a summary at the back of the book showing which paintings Kramer has used as an inspiration. (…) Every spread has its basic colour which sets off a few details. A letter, a still life, a little monkey. None of these elements have an unambiguous meaning attached to them. They refer to something beyond the text and manage to rouse the reader’s curiosity and act as ‘stops’ to immerse oneself in. All in all these are must-see picture collages. They are simply beautiful! (…) In the epilogue, Bjørn Sortland and Hilde Kramer state that Frida Kahlo has meant a lot to them, and that she is one of their favourite artists. It shows. As an art promoting project, the book is a great success. (...) the reader is encouraged to leaf slowly through the book and savour the combination of the beautiful and the grotesque. In addition, I would guess that the daily need for vitamins should be covered by the visual consumption of this colourful art cocktail."
(barnebokkritikk.no, Norway's leading website for children's literature)

"Bjørn Sortland’s moving text teams up with Hilde Kramer’s colourful and expressive illustrations – collage pictures that combine photographs and elements from Frida Kahlo’s paintings. (…) In the vivid dialogue which closely interacts with extraordinarily powerful illustrations, the reader gets to know Frida Kahlo’s tragic fate, her fascinating story and strange paintings. (…) To the reader, the short summary at the back of the book of Frida Kahlo’s life and art, is useful. However, you learn a lot about her just looking at the fantastic illustrations. This is a book about life, death and love which it is every reason to take notice of."

"A wonderful book for children about the world of a great female painter. It’s enchanting. The children’s book about Frida Kahlo’s world is a tiny dream factory in itself."
(Weltexpress, Berlin)



First published: 2009, Aschehoug Children & Young Adults
Bjørn Sortland: Biography and bibliography

Rights sold to

Language Foreign publisher
German Benteli Verlags AG
Lithuanian Modern Art Center

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