Kidlit destinations in Sweden

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Today we’ve got our passports ready for a trip to Sweden and I promise you, we’re going to have fun!

Mulle Meck i glada Hudik is an attraction about 300 km north of Stockholm dedicated to the character Mulle Meck, from the books by George Johansson and Jens Ahlbom. Popular in Sweden, the Mulle Meck stories have been translated into several languages including German (as Willy Werkel) and English (as Freddy Fixer)

Mulle Meck loves to fix things and in Mulle Meck i glada Hudik you and your children can play with gadgets and tools, take a trip with the airplane or even a space flight with Mulle’s new rocket.

Photo: Mulle Meck i Glada Hudik

You can find out more about Mulle Meck at his own website (in Swedish, but if you don’t read Swedish at least you can have a look at the illustrations!)

Next up is the Carl Larsson-Gården, a museum dedicated to the artist and illustrator Carl Larsson and his family in their former home Lilla Hyttnäs, 230km north of Stockholm.

Larsson illustrated many aspects of idyllic family life, as well as an edition of of fairy tales by H. C. Andersen and other children’s books and at Lilla Hyttnäs you can see the original settings for many of his paintings and drawings.

© The Carl and Karin Larsson Family Association.

Larsson’s illustrations and paintings can be seen in several museums and galleries around Sweden including The Thielska Gallery and the Swedish National Museum, both in Stockholm.

In place of visiting these locations in person, you can see 47 of Larsson’s works online here, at Project Runeberg

Now think of Sweden and children’s literature and many people will first think of the wonderful Pippi Longstocking. And yes, there are some great looking places to visit if you’re a fan of this fun loving, mischievous girl.

Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby (about 225 km SW of Stockholm) consists of “a theatre and theme park where visitors can experience characters from Astrid Lindgren’s books in their true settings. Everyone can meet the characters, they perform scenes from the books and improvise situations involving the children in the park”.

Photo courtesy of Astrid Lindgren's World

There are several shops specialising in merchandise featuring Lindgren’s various characters, and you can even stay overnight, camping or in a chalet.

Whilst in this neck of the Swedish woods you’ll want to visit Astrid Lindgren’s childhood home, Näs, also in Vimmerby.
Astrid Lindgren' childhood home. Photo: Astrid Lindgres Näs

You can tour the house in which Lindgren (nee Ericsson) grew up and also visit the cultural centre next door where there are exhibitions about Lindgren’s life and accomplishments as well as a reference library if you’re interested in doing scholarly work on Lindgren’s books.

One of the places I’d really love to take my girls to is Junibacken in Stockholm, a fantasy world where not only can you meet several characters from Astrid Lindgren’s books, but also other stalwarts from Swedish children’s literature.

In Storybook Square you can call on Alfie Atkins (from the books by Gunilla Bergstrom), try cooking in Moominmamma’s kitchen, try on hats with Rut, Knut and little Tjut (Tove Jansson was a Swedish speaking Finn), or feel what it’s like to sit on Mulle Meck’s motorbike.

Photo courtesty of Junibacken

From Storybook Square you move into The Junibacken Gallery which features three illustrator most well-known for their work illustrating some of Astrid Lindgren’s books: Björn Berg, Ingrid Vang Nyman and Ilon Wikland. From there you can take the Storybook Train all the way to Villa Villekulla where, “you are free to play just as wildly as you like” :-). Here you can ride Pippi’s horse, play in Pippi’s kitchen, dress up, paint and draw, play hopscotch, and do lots of other fun things. And if you’ve any energy left after all that there’s also a theatre and children’s bookshop you can visit! Doesn’t it sound like a wonderful place to visit?

Photo courtesy of Junibacken

At Julita Gård, Sweden’s Museum of Agriculture and the country’s largest open air museum (situated about 120 km West of Stockholm), you can visit the farm of the lovable Pettson and Findus, well known from the books by Sven Nordqvist (I’ll be reviewing one of his books in a couple of posts’ time…).

Photo: Peter Segemark, ©Nordiska museet

During the summer Pettson and Findus wander round their farm in person, playing, singing and reading stories with visiting children. Children can also help feed the farm’s chickens!

Jönköping Läns Museum (Jönköping County Museum) is home to a museum dedicated to the artist John Bauer, famous for his fairy tale illustrations.

Illustration by John Bauer for Walter Stenström's The boy and the trolls or The Adventure in childrens' anthology Among pixies and trolls, a collection of children's stories, 1915.

Unfortunately the John Bauer Museum is closed for renovations until Spring 2012 but I still thought it worth including here for future reference as Bauer’s pictures are so beautiful. You can view several of them online at Project Runeberg’s Bauer pages.

The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books in Stockholm is open to the public and houses a library and regular exhibitions and seminars. One of their resources you might want to check out before any visit to Sweden is their list of specialist children’s bookshops. They also maintain a calendar of events around the country relating to children’s literature (In Swedish, but you could use Google Translate if something was happening at the time you planned to visit).

Millesgården in Lidingö (just outside Stockholm to the NE) is about to host Sweden’s first ever Beatrix Potter exhibition. It open on January 29th and runs to May 15th.

And finally, just in case you can’t make it to Sweden but are in New York then you shouldn’t miss A Child’s Adventure in the Swedish Countryside: A Storybook Installation at Scandinavia House. This “is an interactive playscape that takes children on a magical journey from New York City across the ocean to Sweden where they can explore, hear stories, and read while surrounded by vibrant and imaginative murals evocative of the bucolic Swedish landscape.”

Wow! Aren’t there a lot of exciting places to visit in Sweden if you’re interested in children’s literature? If you had to pick just one place to visit, where would you go? I think my first port of call with the girls would be Junibacken!

If this has whetted your appetite for some kidlit based tourism, you might enjoy my post about Finnish kidlit destinations. And in February I’ll be continuing the theme, exploring places to visit in Norway, Iceland and Denmark for fans of children’s literature.

19 Responses

  1. sandhya

    Wow! That’s a lovely roundup. We have enjoyed the Pippi Longstocking books too, so that is certainly a place we’d like to visit. And I personally enjoy Anderson’s fairy tales more than those of the others- Grimm or Perrault.

  2. Donna McKinnon

    Wonderful post, Zoe! And very handy. I’m going to Sweden in the fall, so you’ve done all the groundwork for me. As always, thanks for the mini-vacation!

  3. Zoe

    Hi Sandhya,
    If Pippi is the only Swedish kidlit you’ve read you’ve a treasure trove waiting to be discovered! Andersen is Danish and we’ll be returning to him in a couple of weeks when I look at Danish picture books in translation.

    Hi Donna,
    Lucky you off to Sweden later in the year! You might want to check out this list of bookshops when you’re planning your visit:

  4. Zoe

    Oh yes Susan – Bauer was new to me – but I love his illustrations. I haven’t yet been able to get any books in my hands which feature his work, but I’m certainly on the look out!

  5. Storied Cities (Erica)

    Sweden! Possibly my favorite European country since my grandparents are from there. Since I haven’t been there since my kids were born I’d love to go back and take them to some of the places you mention. We love the Scandinavian House in NYC, which is where I discovered the Boo and Baa books, which are very difficult to find the the US.

    • Zoe

      Hi Erica! Where in Sweden are your grandparents from? I lived in Gothenburg for a summer a long time ago and loved it. Yes, the Scandinavian House in NYC looks great – I’d love to visit.

    • Zoe

      Hi Carrie,
      I tell you, it’s been SUCH fun researching this post – but it has also given me itchy feet… oh to be travelling and exploring!

  6. Maral

    Ooooh! All this looks so intriguing! I have to admit that it’s a bit of a closed book to me — I would love to know more about contemporary picture-books in Sweden, especially. Who are the illustrators from Scandinavia that we should know about, nowadays?

    With bated breath,

    • Zoe

      Hi Maral, Lovely to have you visit Playing by the book – and yes, over the next week and a bit we’ll be looking at various illustrators and authors from Sweden so I hope you’ll find some new delights 🙂

  7. Jennifer

    I want to find that Andersen collection illustrated by Larsson! Is it still in print? any more info. on it so I can track it down?

  8. Zoe

    Hi Jennifer,

    Here are 2 copies for sale I think:

    (in Swedish…)

    Here are more copies for sale:

    Although it looks like not all illustrations are by Larsson

    If you’re interested I’d email the sellers to check what exactly the contents are in terms of illustrations.

  9. sandhya

    Oh, I’m aware Anderson is Danish! I’m sorry I didn’t put that correctly. I was responding to the information that Larsson illustrated an edition of his fairytales.
    Will be certainly looking forward to be guided around a reading tour of Europe, as most of the books I have read are predominantly by British authors. I’m sure it will certainly be a treasure trove!

    • Zoe

      Sorry Sandhya – I misunderstood you!
      I’m in a similar boat to you, in that our literary diet is heavily dominated by UK/US authors so I’m also looking forward to lots of new discoveries whilst “touring” Europe!

    • Zoe

      Hi Sathish,
      Bauer is one of the new discoveries I’m made as a result of setting on my “tour” – I guess his style may not be so popular at the moment and that’s why his work doesn’t seem to be so well known, but I think his pictures are amazing.

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