If you want to read some Swedish picture books in English you’ve lots to choose from – I’ve really been surprised by how many are translated.
Whatever the reasons, there are lots of Swedish books to enjoy with your kids (or by yourself!) and today I bring you a selection of what’s available in English, and point you to where to go if you want to find out more.
Outside In, the (UK based) organisation dedicated to promoting and exploring world literature and children’s books in translation, lists 64 Swedish children’s books translated into English (as compared to 11 from Finland, 16 from Norway, 14 from Denmark and 2 from Iceland). Of the picture books they list, the most popular (to English speaking audiences, as measured by Amazon sales) include:
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by By Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson
Pancakes for Findus by Sven Nordqvist (which I reviewed here)
Good Night, Alfie Atkins by Gunilla Bergstrom. Click here to go to Alfie Atkin’s own website, which includes a fun section on Alfie’s name in various different countries and languages.
Boo and Baa Have Company by Olof Landstrom and Lena Landstrom. Here’s a review over at Books Together.
A Calf for Christmas by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Marit Tornqvist
Dudley the Daydreamer by Anders Brundin, illustrated by Joanna Rubin Dranger
When Owen’s Mom Breathed Fire By Pija Lindebaum
Mini Mia and Her Darling Uncle also by Pija Lindebaum (here’s a review from 7Imp)
Other Swedish picture books which receive good reviews on Amazon (though this isn’t necessarily reflected in their sales) include:
Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren – available in several different editions and at least two different translations – the original, and a more recent one.
My friend percy’s magical gym shoes by Ulf Stark
Bridget and the Moose Brothers by Pija Lindenbaum
1001 Children’s Books: You Must Read Before You Grow Up includes 21 Swedish books in their chapters for the under 8s, although not all are still in print. Of those still in print, and not already mentioned above, these are the books which come recommended:
These, on the other hand are books you might look for in your library or in second hand bookshops as I believe they are out of print:
Else-marie and her seven little daddies by Pija Lindenbaum
Rosa goes to daycare by Barbro Lindgren, illustrated by Eva Eriksson
Molly goes shopping by Eva Eriksson
Stina by Lena Anderson
Little Spook’s Baby Sister by Inger and Lasse Sandberg
Bunny Bath by Lena Anderson
The Wonderful Tree by Ulf Lofgren
Lotta’s Bike by Astrid Lindgren
Is that a Monster, Alfie Atkins? by Gunilla Bergstrom
Dusty wants to help by Inger and Lasse Sandberg
The Death Book by Pernilla Stalfelt
The Love book by Pernilla Stalfelt
According to Annika Lundeberg, an editor at the major Swedish children’s literature publisher Bonnier Carlsen, one contributing factor to the popularity of Swedish books in English translation may be the perception that “Children tend to be more independent in Swedish books” and that Swedish picture books “raise subjects that are taboo in many countries, like bullying, alcoholism in families, divorce, and death” but do so without being too extreme for anglo-saxon tastes (as seems to be the case with many Danish picture books – more on this in a future post).
I’ve been struck by the number of Swedish books for children I’ve found in translation which are about death. I’ve already highlighted Pernilla Stalfelt’s The Death Book, but I’d also like to recommend two wonderful books by Ulf Nilsson – All the dear little animals (illustrated by Eva Eriksson) and Goodbye Mr Muffin (illustrated by Anna-Clara Tidholm). They’re so good that I’ll be posting proper reviews of them tomorrow!
Another Swedish author which several readers of this book have recommended to me is Hans Christian Andersen Medal winner Maria Gripe. A writer of novels (rather than picture books), perhaps most famous for her series about Hugo and Josephine (click here to read a post at Books Together about this series), many of her works are available in English.
If you’re after a book set in Sweden, but written in English (ie not a translation from Swedish) A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books recommends Per and the Dala Horse by Rebecca Hickox.
Now, moving on from recommendations of individual books, here’s a selection of links to explore if you want to find out more about Swedish children’s literature:
Barnbokhandeln.com is an online bookshop specialising in Swedish children’s literature. I have not used them myself but they do ship worldwide.
The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books is a great source of information on, well, children’s books in Sweden. It’s here, for example that I learned that the publishing of children´s books and books for young people accounts for about 10% of all publishing in Sweden (I wonder what the figure is in other countries around the world – do you have any ideas?). They’ve got an extremely useful list of bookshops – great if you’re planning an actual trip to Sweden and want to know where to go to get great kids’ books.
IBBY Sweden is another resource for those interested in (Swedish) children’s books. I particularly like the sound of their Peter Pan Award. The prize is awarded annually to a book for children or young adults of high quality in both literary and subject terms, satisfying one or more of the following criteria (1) by an author previously unpublished or little known in Sweden, (2) from a country, language group or culture with limited representation in Sweden, (3) with content concerning children or young adults in less familiar countries and cultures less familiar to Swedish readers
Two of the largest publishers of children’s literature in Sweden are Rabén & Sjögren and Bonnier Carlsen (though for an extensive list of publishers, check out this page from the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books).
Barnens bibliotek (The Children’s Library) is a national, government funded website (primarily in Swedish) promoting reading to the under 14s in Sweden. As well as background information on many books, authors and illustrators it includes the Children’s Book Catalogue (Barnsbokskatlogen), an annual list of all books published for children and young people in Sweden each year.
The Swedish Academy for Children’s Books (Svenska barnboksakademin) “is an association dedicated to the promotion of good literature for children and young people. It strives to influence politicians, institutions, and public opinion in the area of children’s literature.” Their board is quite a who’s who in Swedish children’s literature today, and the most recent winner of their annual Fiery Spirit Award was Kalle Güettler, whose only book translated into English, No! said Little Monster (link is to French language translation as the English translation is not yet available), I’m hoping to review in a few weeks’ time.
Development Tendencies in Swedish Children’s Literature is a short online essay providing an overview of Swedish children’s literature today
The Official Astrid Lindgren website – I couldn’t really do a post about Swedish children’s literature without mentioning her at some point, could I?
My thanks to members of the Rutgers Child Lit list and the JISCMail Children-Literature-UK list for the stimulating discussion I’ve had regarding Swedish children’s literature.
Disclosure: I received All the dear little animals and Goodbye Mr Muffin gratis from the publisher, Hawthorn Press, but this did not influence their inclusion or recommendation in this post.