Erik Stoneheart is a story of grief, family ties, and budding friendship that centers around a lonely 11-year-old boy. Adapted from Ilmar Raag’s 2022 feature film, the original concept was inspired by Sass Henno’s children’s book Mereröövlimäng (The Pirate Game, 2009).

When Erik’s family inherits his great-aunt Brunhilda’s house on an island, the boy’s life changes dramatically. The building is shared with a man and his nasty little daughter named Maria, with whom Erik ends up embarking on an unexpected sea journey aboard The Big Blue. Thanks to the mysterious events that ensue, adults and children alike soon realize what truly matters in life.

The authors paint a vivid picture of a child whose parents are infrequently there for him. They permit him screen time aplenty if it means more time for them to concentrate on their own hobbies, for example. Or they consistently buy their son, who is nearly a teenager, childish dinosaur-print slippers and bedsheets, though he has no clue why they should think he has any interest in prehistoric creatures. Adapting to his environment, Erik has thus become Stoneheart: a cold, unshakeable child who obediently exists in his own little world.

Things are different for the passionate and fierce Maria, who spends tons of time with her father doing an array of fun activities, like swinging in the garden and making pancakes on weekends. The girl’s mother, however, vanished on a sea expedition. On the quest to find her, the kids enter the In-Between World: a place of wandering souls whose loved ones cannot let them go, preventing the deceased from fully crossing over. During the adventure, the children come face-to-face with a ship full of pirates. Delving into the story and its thrilling descriptions, readers may feel like they’ve ended up right in the middle of another Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.

Without getting bogged down in metaphysical details, the story spellbindingly addresses the topics of death and loss, which are uncommon in children’s literature. Doing so, the authors successfully avoid the trap of melancholy pathos while still showing empathy for the child. Maria comes to accept the reality of her mother’s death and the story comes to a happy ending when the two headbutting protagonists become friends, their family relationships are rejuvenated, and Erik Stoneheart can simply become a boy named Erik.

Andris Feldmanis, Livia Ulman

Erik Stoneheart

Postimees Kirjastus OÜ, 2022, 320 pp.

ISBN 9789916712207