HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures
Authors: Tamara Ramsay and Malve von Hassell
Illustrator: Monica Minto
Publisher: Two Harbors Press, English edition published in 2012
Related websites: http://www.malvevonhassell.com/ (author), http://www.monicaminto.com (illustrator), http://www.TwoHarborsPress.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Ramsay, Tamara, and Hassell, Malve von. Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures (originally published in German in 1941; English translation published in 2012 by Two Harbors Press, 213 Third Ave. N., Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401). Do you have any idea what a “Rennefarre” is? Some time after World War I, twelve-year-old Dorothea Kersting, known as Dott, lives on a modest little farm, the Kerstinghof, near the village of Mellen in the Prignitz region of Germany east of Berlin, with her father, mother, nine-year-old brother Gerd, and baby sister Mummele who is very sick. On the night of the Summer Solstice, Dott sneaks out of the house to see the bonfire at Rambow Lake on the edge of her village, leaving her brother and sister alone. The magical Rennefarre flower, also called the common tansy or Rainfarn, falls into her shoe. It makes her invisible, allows her to see things no one else could see, and enables her to talk with the animals.
Since she is no longer able to stay with her family, Dott thus begins her adventures. With the help of her new friends Gurian the heron and Cornix the crow, on whose backs she flies, she sets off to visit different places in an attempt to find out how to be released from her enchantment. Along the way she meets Frau Harke, the legendary patron of animals who makes it possible for her to change her size, and Rubezahl, a legendary mountain spirit. Also, she assists a boy, Klaus Petersen of Berlin, who has also been enchanted, as well as many of the animals. At various locations where she stops, Dott goes back in time to meet great characters of the past and see important historical events. But will she find a way out of her predicament? Will she ever be able to return to her home? Rennefarre was originally published in 1941, but Malve von Hassell’s English translation/adaptation is based on the abridged edition of 1965.
With its fantasy blend of history and folklore, readers who are not familiar with Central European culture and geography may find the plot a little confusing at times, especially as Dott goes back to different periods in time at different places, but those who enjoy reading about those subjects should find it interesting, and the back of the book contains a timeline of major events and a glossary of terms used in the story. Perhaps a map would have been helpful too. Author Tamara Ramsay was a Roman Catholic, and the section about the Hussite Wars comes across as rather anti-Hussite. We have also read Deborah Alcock’s Crushed Yet Conquering about the same period, and it gives a rather different picture of the brutal Catholic persecution of the Hussites, but most such things have two sides to be told. There are a few references to drinking alcohol and using tobacco, and one scene in which several people are murdered is a little gruesome. However, in addition to the historical information, Dott shows good character by refusing to steal, prays on several occasions, and learns some valuable lessons about life in the course of her travels.