Lunge-Larsen, Lise 1955-

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Lunge-Larsen, Lise 1955-


Born October 15, 1955, in Oslo, Norway; daughter of Asbørn (an antiquarian book dealer) and Berit Lunge-Larsen; married Steven A. Kuross (an oncologist), August 19, 1978; children: Emily, Even, Erik. Education: Augsburg College, B.A., 1977; University of Minnesota, M.A. (applied linguistics), 1981. Religion: Lutheran.


Home—2011 Lakeview Dr., Duluth, MN 55803. E-mail—[email protected].


Children's book author and storyteller. College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, MN, instructor in English and director of English as a second language program, 1981-87; Hamline University, St. Paul, adjunct faculty member, 1982-90; University of Minnesota, Duluth, instructor in children's literature, 1990, 1994. Served on Board of Education, First Lutheran Church, Duluth.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Children's Literature Network.

Awards, Honors

Minnesota Book Award, and American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book designation, both 2000, for The Troll with No Heart in His Body, and Other Tales from Norway, and 2002, for Race of the Birkebeiners; Great Lakes Book Award finalist, for The Legend of the Lady Slipper; Los Angeles Times Notable Book designation, and Bank Street College of Education Best Books designation, both 2002, both for The Race of the Birkebeiners.


(Reteller, with Margi Preus) The Legend of the Lady Slipper: An Ojibwe Tale, illustrated by Andrea Arroyo, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.

(Reteller) The Troll with No Heart in His Body, and Other Tales of Trolls from Norway, illustrated by Betsy Bowen, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.

The Race of the Birkebeiners, illustrated by Mary Azarian, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.

Tales of the Hidden Folk: Stories of Fairies, Gnomes, Selkies, and Other Hidden Folk, illustrated by Beth Krommes, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.

Noah's Mittens: The True Story of Felt, illustrated by Matthew Trueman, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.

(Reteller) The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God, illustrated by Jim Madsen, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2007.


In the environs of Duluth, Minnesota, where Lise Lunge-Larsen makes her home, she is known fondly as "The Troll Lady." The reason? As a storyteller and author of books such as The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God and Tales of the Hidden Folk: Stories of Fairies, Gnomes, Selkies, and Other Hidden Folk, she has focused on the tales of her native Norway, which are replete with trolls and other fantastic creatures. The daughter of an antiquarian bookseller, Lunge-Larsen grew up in Oslo, Norway literally immersed in literature because her family home doubled as a bookstore. Surprisingly, she did not envision becoming a storyteller or author when she grew up; as she later told SATA, "My parents' plan was that I should become a secretary then one day marry the boss!"

Life had different plans for Lunge-Larsen, however. Her receipt of the Crown Prince Harald Scholarship to Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota resulted in a move to the United States after high school. Although she intended to return to Norway after a year, she fell in love with Steve Kuross, a pre-med student, and the two made plans to marry. Lunge-Larsen worked toward her B.A. at Augsburg College and also found a job in a local children's library. "For the first time in my life, I was exposed to the writings of people like Dr. Seuss, A.A. Milne, Kenneth Graham, and C.S. Lewis," she later recalled. "Now I was in love not just with Steve but with children's books as well and spent nearly thirty-two hours a week (on the job!) reading every book in the children's library."

As Lunge-Larsen soon discovered, the library lacked some of her favorite stories, such as the Norse myths and sagas and the traditional tales collected by Norwegian folklorists Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Ingebretsen Moe. "I soon found myself telling anyone who would listen stories of trolls and other strange creatures from my own childhood, and in a short time found myself telling tales all over the state," she explained. As Sheryl Jensen wrote in an article on the writer for Area Woman magazine, Lunge-Larsen has become an expert storyteller: "From bellowing and roaring in the bass of a nasty troll hag to squealing and stammering like a terrified little boy, Lise uses her voice, her animated face, and her whirlwind of dynamic energy in a total body experience of storytelling."

After graduating with her B.A., Lunge-Larsen married Kuross. As a wedding gift, her father gave her a collection of troll stories in which he had written: "To Lise, with all my good wishes and the hope that even though she may forget her Norwegian, she will never forget her Norwegian trolls." While raising her three children, she continued her work as a storyteller and earned a graduate degree in teaching English as a second language, with a minor in children's literature, writing her thesis on storytelling as a teaching tool. "No matter what I did," she explained, "storytelling and children's literature soon was involved." In the early 1990s, with a quarter-century of storytelling experience behind her, Lunge-Larsen started committing her favorite Norwegian stories to paper.

"I find that much of my writing goes back to the world I experienced as a child—a world full of trolls, mysterious hidden creatures, heroes and heroines who have to battle evil among men, trolls, and other hidden forces," Lunge-Larsen explained to SATA. "I grew up in a landscape beautiful, haunting and alive and this very much shapes my experience of the world and now my writing. I am also interested in stories about that which is hidden from ordinary sight or knowledge, such as trolls or other hidden folk, or stories about how things got the way they are."

In The Troll with No Heart in His Body, and Other Tales of Trolls from Norway Lunge-Larsen shares eight folk tales retold from Asbjørnsen and Moe's Samlede eventyr (Collected Stories). Other eight traditional tales of magic are retold in Tales of the Hidden Folk, and here Lunge-Larsen introduces readers to hidden creatures such as flower fairies, dwarves, a water horse, and the seductive selkie, which lures humans into the sea. In Booklist John Peters made note of the stylized, "jewel-toned," folk-style art provided by Beth Krommes, while School Library Journal contributor Harriett Fargnoli praised Lunge-Larsen for retelling the stories in "an accessible manner that will captivate readers." A Publishers Weekly reviewer, appraising Lunge-Larsen's singular picture book The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God, concluded that the work presents readers with "an accessible and engaging doorway into the world of Norse mythology.

Lunge-Larsen's interest in the capacity of people to rise above their normal abilities and accomplish the extraordinary inspired her award-winning story The Race of the Birkebeiners. In this medieval Norwegian tale, based on a true story, the Birkebeiners—so named because they wear birch-bark leggings—save the infant Prince Hakon when they ski with the baby across the mountains during a blizzard in an effort to thwart assassins. Both Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg and School Library Journal critic Anne Chapman Callaghan praised the picture book for its compelling plot, unambiguous language, and detailed woodcut illustrations by Caldecott award-winning artist Mary Azarian. Noting Azarian's "stately art" and Lunge-Larsen's "direct and compelling prose," a Publishers Weekly contributor deemed The Race of the Birkebeiners an "engaging narrative" that brings to life a colorful incident from early Norwegian history.

Turning to the stories of her adopted country, Lunge-Larsen has also teamed up with writer Margi Preus to retell a Native American tale in The Legend of the Lady Slipper: An Ojibwe Tale. In the book, a young girl, the only well person among her people, battles through a snow storm to obtain medicinal herbs from a neighboring village. When her moccasins freeze to the ground

on the return trip, the girl leaves them behind and walks the rest of the way leaving bloody footprints in the snow. Returning in the spring to retrieve her moccasins, she finds in their place the pink-and-white shoe-shaped flowers known as lady slippers: ma-ki-sin waa-big-wann in Ojibwe. In her review of The Legend of the Lady

Slipper for Booklist, GraceAnne A. DeCandido described the coauthors' retelling as "powerful"; and a Publishers Weekly critic praised the text and illustrations for their "unusual simplicity and fluidity." Writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Janice N. Harrington also praised the narrative style employed by Lunge-Larsen and Preus, particularly their use of nature metaphors and strong verbs. Harrington went on to point out how the tale "smoothly integrates Ojibwe words and phrases into an accessible narrative."

In Noah's Mittens: The True Story of Felt Lunge-Larsen uses the familiar story of Noah and the Ark to tell an amusing story about how felted wool was first devised. Among the many animals on Noah's ark are two sheep, and when the climate in the well-sealed boat reaches sauna status, the sheep's heavy coats start to tighten and shrink. Cutting off the felted wool to free the poor sheep, Noah is able to put the material to good use after the waters subside and his ark is deposited high on a snowy mountain peak. Given an extra dose of humor by Matthew Trueman's paintings, Noah's Mittens was described as "amusing" by Kathy Piehl, the critic adding in her School Library Journal review that the book would be a "good choice for storytime sharing before a romp in the snow." "Simple and wonderfully complex," according to Booklist writer Randall Enos, Lunge-Larsen's story combines with Trueman's art to "work well on many levels." Although a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the storyteller's "playful liberties … may not be for everyone," Lunge-Larsen's notes about the story's origins "are sure to spark curiosity and exploration."

Her work as a storyteller gave Lunge-Larsen an advantage when she turned to writing, providing her with "an intuitive sense of what kinds of stories children love," as she once commented. "When I work, I spend a lot of time telling the story out loud to myself to find the right rhythm and pacing. Sometimes I even record it. But whenever I am stuck, all I have to do is tell the story to groups of children. Somehow, with the kids there, I always find the words I am looking for, the section that needs to be tightened, or the part that needs to be played up." For Lunge-Larsen, a good story is more than entertaining: "My thoughts are perhaps best expressed by this old saying: ‘When the bond between heaven and earth is broken, even prayer is not enough. Only a story can mend it.’"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Area Woman (Duluth, MN), December-January, 2002, Sheryl Jensen, "The Troll Lady: Lise Lunge-Larsen," pp. 26-27, 68-69.

Booklist, April 15, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Legend of the Lady Slipper: An Ojibwe Tale, p. 1533; March 15, 2000, review of The Troll with No Heart in His Body, and Other Tales of Trolls from Norway, p. 1360; July, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of The Race of the Birkebeiners, p. 2014; September 1, 2004, John Peters, review of The Hidden Folk: Stories of Fairies, Dwarves, Selkies, and Other Secret Beings, p. 117; October 15, 2006, Randall Enos, review of Noah's Mittens: The Story of Felt, p. 54.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July, 1999, Janice N. Harrington, review of The Legend of the Lady Slipper, pp. 394-395; October, 2004, Timnah Card, review of The Hidden Folk, p. 87; November, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of Noah's Mittens, p. 134.

Horn Book, November, 1999, Roger Sutton, review of The Troll with No Heart in His Body, and Other Tales of Trolls from Norway, p. 748.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2001, review of The Race of the Birkebeiners, p. 1295; September 1, 2006, review of Noah's Mittens, p. 907.

Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1999, review of The Legend of the Lady Slipper, p. 74; October 11, 1999, review of The Troll with No Heart in His Body, and Other Tales of Trolls from Norway, p. 76; September 3, 2001, review of The Race of the Birkebeiners, p. 88; July 31, 2006, review of Noah's Mittens, p. 77; June 11, 2007, review of The Adventure of Thor the Thunder God, p. 60.

School Library Journal, September, 2001, Anne Chapman Callaghan, review of The Race of the Birkebeiners, p. 217; December, 2004, Harriett Fargnoli, review of The Hidden Folk, p. 134; December, 2006, Kathy Piehl, review of Noah's Mittens, p. 107.


Minnesota Public Radio Web site, (September 24, 2007), Stephanie Hemphill, review of The Hidden Folk.