Sannel Larson

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Astrid Lindgren the Swedish Author of Children's Books

A week ago, I wrote about Elsa Beskow, a Swedish children's book author and illustrator. Once again, I'll write about another great author of children's books. Perhaps one of the most famous children's book authors in the world. I'm talking about the Swedish author, Astrid Lindgren.

The books we read as children do leave a strong impression that will last a lifetime. I loved to read as a child and my reading habit began very early. At first I was only able to look at the wonderful illustrations in the books. However, when I was able to read on my own, a whole new treasure trove, rich in imagination opened up to me. I remember escaping in between the covers of the book and become one of the characters. I let the imaginative world take over my mind until the last chapter was read. 

The very funny "Karlson On the Roof"

One of my favorite children's book authors was, and still is, Astrid Lindgren. This Swedish writer is without a doubt one of the most eminent children's authors in the world. However, growing up in Sweden, I never thought of her as famous, just a fun, cool  lady with great imagination and the mother of Pippi Longstocking, Emil of Lönneberga, Karlsson on the roof, Seacrow Island, the Bill Bergson series, the children of the noisy village, the brothers Lionheart and many many more. 

Astrid Lindgren

Astrid lindgren's Early life
Astrid Anna Emilia Ericsson, known to the world as author Astrid Lindgren was born November 14th 1907, and grew up in her family's farm in the small town of Vimmerby in the south of Sweden.
Astrid Lindgren's own happy childhood playing in the farm, horseback riding through green forests in summer and swimming in the lakes under the midnight-sun, skated on frozen ponds and lakes in winter and went cray fishing in the fall, would present her later with the inspiration for all her wonderful stories.

At the age of 16, she began training as a journalist. Two years later she moved to Stockholm after she became pregnant while unmarried. There she worked as a secretary. Her son Lars was born on December 4 1926. Eventually, at the age of 24 she married the father, Sture Lindgren and in 1934, they had a daughter, Karin.

This red-haired girl has done wonders for equality between the sexes, encouraged young girls to believe in themselves and have fun. 

Pippi Longstocking
In 1944, she published her first book. It was a story for teen-age girls called "Britt-Mari Opens Her Heart". However, it was the year after when she published through a small editing house, the story of the popular character Pippi Longstocking that she achieved great success and apparently saved the editors from bankruptcy. Her editors Rabén & Sjögren are today the leading publishing house for children in Sweden. 

This red-haired and freckled girl became an instant hit among children, but parents was concerned and shocked at first by the disobedient and headstrong Pippi, who revolted against society and gladly mocked charity ladies and institutions like the police. This determined, red-haired girl called Pippi Långstrump “Pippi Longstocking” has done wonders for equality between the sexes, encouraged young girls to believe in themselves and have fun. Pippi Longstocking has been translated into more than 70 languages and published in more than 100 countries.

Astrid Lindgren is and always will be a part of our Swedish culture

  • Astrid Lindgren produced about 80 books altogether and has sold more than 145 million copies worldwide and is the world's 18th most translated author. Many of her stories have been made into films and television and taken into theater, like Karlsson-on-the-Roof. 
  • She was awarded many Swedish and international prizes for her books, among them the Hans Christian Andersen medal in 1958, which is considered the ultimate accolade for an author of children's books. After her death in 2002, the Government of Sweden established the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) in her honor. The ALMA is the world's most valuable children and youth literature award.
  • Astrid Lindgren fought for children's rights and animal welfare. In 1998, she induced an animal rights bill into law. The same year the Astrid Lindgren's Children's Hospital opened and is one of the biggest children hospitals in northern Europe.
  • In 1952, her husband Sture Lindgren died at the age of 53, of internal hemorrhage. Astrid Lindgren never remarried. Her son Lars “ Lasse” Lindgren died in 1986. The son once said about his mother; She wasn't the kind of mother who would sit quiet on a park-bench, watching her children play. She wanted to play herself and I suspect she found it as much fun as I did.
  • In 1987, she wrote her last piece, a short mystery story. 
  • A theme park, displaying several of the settings from her books, opened in 1989 in her hometown, and attracts over 300,000 visitors yearly.


Personal Quotes of Astrid Lindgren

  • I don't 'mean' anything by my writing. I just write for the child in myself.
  • You have to live your life in order to make friends with death.
  • You know that the Germans are insane. For example they have named about 70 schools after me.
  • On the question if she would like to be a member of the Swedish Academy? "The Swedish Academy? What use would they have of an old woman that is half blind, half deaf and totally crazy?"
  • Have I managed to brighten up one single miserable childhood then I'm satisfied.

The very popular, "The Brothers Lionheart"

Astrid Lindgren's best known children's books:

In chronological order 
  • The Pippi Longstocking series (Pippi Långstrump) (1945-1971) 
  • The Children of Noisy Village series, also know as ( The Bullerby Children) (Bullerbyn) (1946-1966) 
  • The Bill Bergson series (Mästerdetektiven Blomkvist) (1946-1953) 
  • Mio, my Mio (also known as Mio, my Son) (Mio, min Mio) (1954) 
  • The Karlson-on-the-Roof series (Karlsson på Taket) (1955-1972) 
  • The Mardie series, also known as ( Mischievous Meg) (Madicken) (1960-1993) 
  • Emil series (Emil i Lönneberga) (1963-1997) 
  • Sea Crow Island (Vi på Saltkråkan) (1964) 
  • The Brothers Lionheart (Bröderna Lejonhjärta) (1973) 
  • Ronia the Robber’s Daughter (Ronja Rövardotter) (1981) 

Astrid Lindgren and Pippi (Inger Nilsson) on the set

Astrid Lindgren spent her last years in her modest apartment on Dalagatan in Stockholm where she had lived since 1941. She died peacefully in her home after a short illness on January 28, 2002 at the age of 94.

Astrid Lindgren is and always will be a part of our Swedish culture. She is loved and cherished by so many, not only in her homeland but all over the world. She truly have succeeded to brighten up many children's life throughout many decades with her wonderful writing – I know, because I was one of them. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Elsa Beskow

Stories that we read in childhood stay with us forever and Elsa Beskow's fairy tales with its wonderful illustrations has in some way shaped my life with her imaginative work. I loved to read her fairy tales as a child and I could sit for hours watching her whimsical and enchanting drawings. I truly believe she triggered my big imagination and the love I have myself to illustrate and write for children.

Elsa Beskow 1874-1953

Elsa Beskow was a Swedish author and illustrator, known for her beloved children's stories and picture books. She truly was a remarkably talented person, full of vim and vigor, and was referred to as the Beatrix Potter of Scandinavia. She was known for her masterly attention to detail, as her stories often contained teensy-weensy heroes.

Elsa Beskow combined reality with fairy tales. She made water lilies, chanterelle's and even the smallest blueberry all came to life in her richly colored and detailed work. As much as I admire today's digital art, I can't but help to adore the detailed “old school art” of illustrations that's so typical of Elsa Beskow. For you who may not heard, or may not know so much about this Swedish author, here I have put together some interesting facts about this intriguing woman and her life.

Elsa Beskow

Elsa Beskow's Early Years

Elsa Beskow was born as Elsa Maartman in Stockholm, Sweden on February 11, 1874. Her father, Bernt Maartman, had a Norwegian background while her mother, Augusta Fahlstedt was Swedish. Elsa had four younger sisters and one older brother. Elsa Beskow showed very early her ability to make up fairy tale stories. Even before she was able to speak properly, she started to tell stories to her brother who helped her out with words and the plots. At an early age she showed her talent and her love for drawing as well, and she loved to draw images of nature such as flowers, trees and berries.

Elsa Beskow was brought up in a liberal home and she was taught to stand up for her beliefs. Many of her beliefs and values was expressed in her children's picture books. She vouched for freedom of speech for everyone in her book “The flower festival” written 1914. Some say that Mrs Chestnut, in her loose-fitting dress, is portrayed as pregnant - a daring and bold thing to do at a time when the middle classes were of the opinion that pregnant women should be kept behind closed doors and out of sight.

Aunt Green in her Garden

Aunt Green, Aunt Brown and Aunt Lavender

When Elsa was 15 years old her father died of pneumonia, leaving his wife Augusta and six children alone and the family's economic affairs in ruin. Augusta and the children moved in with Augusta's unmarried sisters and brother, who at the time were already living together. Elsa Beskow's years living with her aunt and uncle inspired her “Aunt-series” of books: Aunt Green, Aunt Brown and Aunt Lavender (1918) Aunt Brown's Birthday ( 1925 ) Peter and Lotta's Adventure ( 1929 ) Uncle Blue's New Boat ( 1942 ) and Peter and Lotta's Christmas ( 1947 ).

Elsa Beskow's aunts and uncle had different views when it came to parenting and education, and they started a school where the method of teaching was through games and enjoyment and with focus on understanding what they studied, instead of the strict school system at the time. Elsa was inspired by these views and the story of Doctor Clever Clogs, was created where she criticized the Swedish school system.

The Tale of the Little, Little Old Woman

In 1892, at the age of eighteen, Elsa Beskow continued her studies at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in Stockholm, learning what she loved the most - drawing. Her drawings and writings was first published in 1894, in the very popular children's magazine, Jultomten (Father Christmas ) Her debut book, The Tale of the Little, Little Old Woman was released in 1897. In 1894, she started to work as a drawing-master at the Whitlockska Sam school in Stockholm and worked there until 1897.

Elsa and Nathaniel Beskow

Nathaniel Beskow

It was at the University she met Nathaniel Beskow, (1865 – 1953), when she was a model for Nathaniel's paintings. They married in 1897. Nathaniel Beskow however, changed his course and returned to his interrupted theology studies and eventually became a doctor of theology. He also served as a school headmaster, writer, preacher, pacifist and social activist. He published collections of sermons and made significant contributions as a hymn writer.

“ Every year another book and every other year another boy”

Between the years 1899 – 1914, Elsa and Nathaniel Beskow had six sons. Elsa Beskow supported her growing family with her writing. She portrayed her life as “ Every year another book and every other year another boy”. Art, literature and music was very important in the Beskow's home and so was the cause of Swedish women's movement that was growing in strength at the time in Sweden. Both Elsa Beskow and her husband supported and was involved with the campaign for women's suffrage. Nathaniel Beskow was often engaged in leading discussions and became a noticeable negotiator.

Peter in Blueberry Land

Berries and flowers Came To Life in Elsa Beskow's World

Elsa Beskow's breakthrough came in 1901, with “Peter in Blueberry Land”. This was her first book to be translated. From then on, her picture books became immensely popular and have been translated into fifteen languages.They include; Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, Faroese, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Russian and Spanish.

She used her children and the nature as her inspiration. Her sons became model's for her child characters in her books and she created one picture book for each of her sons. The Beskow family lived in an old wooden mansion in the outskirt of Stockholm, surrounded with a huge,wild garden. Elsa Beskow would often sit in her garden to draw and let the wonderful flowers, plants and insects be her inspiration. She combined reality with fairy tales. Animals, children, berries, flowers, elves and goblins all came to life in her colorful and detailed illustrations.

Beskow's Sons

In 1922, Elsa and Nathaniel's youngest son, at the age of seven, died in a tragic accident whilst he was skating.

Their son Gunnar Beskow (1901 – 1991 ) was an acclaimed geologist, author, poet and cultural personality. He did groundbreaking work in Sweden for today’s stance on environmental and green issues. He was also chairman in The Swedish Authors Association 1948-1950.

Bo Viktor Beskow (1906 – 1989 ) studied at The Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm, Paris and in Rome.Versatile in his artistry; fresco-painting, mural-painting, stained-glass windows in churches around Sweden, and portraits painting, as well as murals at the UN headquarters in New York.

On June 30, 1953, Elsa Beskow died of cancer at the age of 79. Four months later on October 8, her husband, Nathaniel Beskow died.

Beatrix Potter of Scandinavia

Elsa Beskow's style inspired many artists and she was thought of as Beatrix Potter of Scandinavia. Unfortunately, she fell victim to criticism, mainly about the gender roles within her stories, as well as being considered as too old-fashioned. However, she dominated Swedish children's picture books for over 50 years and was awarded in 1952, the Nils Holgerson Plaque for her collection. In 1958, the Elsa Beskow Plaque was founded by the Swedish Library Association.

Elsa Beskow wrote and illustrated over forty books in her lifetime. She also illustrated songbooks and ABC books for Swedish schools. Her final book, The Red Bus and the Green Car” was published in 1952, the year before her passing. Elsa Beskow's picture books have been known and cherished for over a century. They are true classics and are steadily reprinted, as well as Elsa Beskow's wonderful calendars, with seasonal artwork from her books.