Aidi Vallik came to literature as a poetess, but is best known and highly appreciated for her stories about Ann, a teenage schoolgirl from Tallinn. In the era of vampires, vampirates and witchcraft academy students, Vallik writes in her ‘Ann’ tales about simple things: the real life problems of teenage girls and boys, friendship and first relationships, so important and unforgettable, their need to love and be loved, cared for and heeded. She writes about and for young people and children, both teenage schoolchildren and younger ones. Her books about Ann, already part of the school program in Estonia and staged as radio plays and in the theatre, are translated into Latvian, Lithuanian and Finnish. The first of them, Kuidas elad, Ann? (2001, How Are You, Ann?) has won several literature prizes, such as the main prize in the competition for youth literature in 2000 in Estonia and the Janis Baltvilks´ Award of the Latvian Section of the International Board on Books for Young People in 2008. The book became so enormously popular among Latvian youth that it was the most frequently borrowed one from libraries.

Vallik (born in 1971), since 2004 a professional writer, studied art at first, and has worked as an artist. In 1991–1995 she studied Estonian philology and literature at the University of Tartu and worked as a schoolteacher of literature in Haapsalu, Western Estonia. As a teacher she wanted to solve the problem of why children do not like reading nowadays, and she soon found the answer: there were no books with stories about them, their problems, worries, grief or joy. This was the starting point.

Kuidas elad, Ann? (2001, How Are You, Ann?) is a mother-and-daughter story, quite a classical tale of a girl growing up, describing Ann and her astonishment and panic, when the girl discovers her quite strict mother´s diary and with it the entirely different world of the older generation´s rebellious punk youth in the nineteen-eighties, in addition to the fact that Ann´s father is only her stepfather. Ann runs away from home and has to live through all the vortices of frantic youth to understand the motives of her mother, who still manages to protect her from the worst even from afar.

Mis teha, Ann? (2002, What Now, Ann?) is, by contrast, about the relationship of Ann and her (step)father, partly in the form of letters and e-mails. The first true love of Ann is complicated: her boyfriend, an orphan raised in a wealthy family, turns out to be a double-crossing drug dealer deceiving his own friends, including Ann. The young girl´s romance is combined with the life story of her stepfather, who was an orphanage kid as well, and survived all the hardships only with the help of willpower, wanting to become someone and yearning for an honest, cosy life of his own.

The third Ann tale, Mis sinuga juhtus, Ann? (2007, What Happened To You, Ann? ), based on a film scenario Kuhu põgenevad hinged (Where Souls Go, 2007), co-authored with Rainer Sarnet and Peeter Sauter, is quite an heartbreaking retrospection from hospital. As Ann´s mother gives birth to a little boy, the girl feels herself left out from the family circle. She wants her place back so badly, praying even to Satan, that when her brother falls ill, she believes herself to have caused his illness. Her parents, devastated from the family problems, leave for Finland, as the little boy needs immediate heart surgery, and Ann, all alone, does not cope with her loneliness and sense of guilt. But she still seeks a solution desperately, even from Satanism again, at last having a nervous breakdown, and it is not clear whether she shares some of her experiences really, or only imagines them.
But Aidi Vallik´s books tend to have happy endings, and it helps her readers of that sensitive age, providing the belief in home and parents or in older and wiser friends – the important hope that everything turns out well at last, although the way to that point could sometimes be very hard. Vallik´s protagonist Ann is as brave and independent, intelligent and reasonable, as a girl nowadays should be.

Vallik`s books for smaller children, e.g. Unekoer (Sleeping Dog, 2006), are full of fantasy and warmth. The author is here joking, moving and caring, her word play and funny turns engage the young reader as well as the older one. Vallik wants to encourage people, especially the younger ones, who nowadays have so much else to do, to read and care for reading. She wants to arouse excitement from it, and she succeeds, giving the impulse to read more, other, new books.

Text by Elle-Mari Talivee

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