Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

More Swedish (Picture) Books

Posted on | January 31, 2011 | 12 Comments

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


  • Other Swedish picture books which receive good reviews on Amazon (though this isn’t necessarily reflected in their sales) include:

  • 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)


  • 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:

  • 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

  • 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.

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    Comments

    12 Responses to “More Swedish (Picture) Books”

    1. Choxbox
      January 31st, 2011 @ 4:10 am

      What a well-researched post Zoe!

      We have some of Astrid Lindgren’s books, apart from Pippi that is. Always love them. Linnea in Monet’s Garden has lovely illustrations doesn’t it? In fact we were just discussing it with an American friend yesterday – apparently it is very popular in the US too.

      Look forward to your reviews of the two books you mention.

    2. Zoe
      January 31st, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

      Hi Choxbox,
      Thanks! I had lots of fun reading around for this post – I’m learning lots and discovering so many new books, it’s great!

    3. Ali B
      January 31st, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

      The Lotta books by Astrid Lindgren are available on Amazon. I loved her Bullerby books as well when I was a child, but Pippi will always reign supreme… a great post as always; I’ll be looking out some of these.

    4. Ali B
      January 31st, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

      Also, if you and the girls wanted something to eat while reading, these ginger cookies are lovely! I think they’re usually a Christmas recipe, but perfect for chilly January afternoons. I made them last year to take to a friend’s, and they’re pretty foolproof. http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/6391/pepparkakor.aspx

    5. Zoe
      January 31st, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

      Thanks Ali, yes Lindgren is really the queen of Swedish kidlit, but I hope I’ve shown there are lots of other treasures out there too. The recipe looks good, we shall have to give it a go once our kitchen is back in working order later this week!

    6. Tweets that mention Swedish (picture) books in translation | Playing by the book -- Topsy.com
      January 31st, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

      [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JudiJ, Zoe Toft. Zoe Toft said: Love Pippi Longstocking? Discover there's so much more to Swedish children's literature with today's post: http://bit.ly/efDLYe #kidlit [...]

    7. Camille
      January 31st, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

      I love your Swedish books you have highlighted. I picked up Pippi Longstocking a few weeks back at the library to read with my daughter – and I am even more excited to now! I will have to track down some of the picture books as well.

    8. Petra
      February 9th, 2011 @ 8:45 am

      We absolutely love the Petterson & Findus books by S Nordqvist, the detail in the pictures are amazing. Although not sure how many of the books have been translated into English, we tend to read them in german (easier to get hold of, they have even been made into a tv series which is also very good)

    9. Zoe
      February 10th, 2011 @ 6:07 am

      Hi Petra, I think 4 are now available in English which is a good start. Still leaves 5, I think, to be translated – fingers crossed that they will be!

    10. Zoe
      February 13th, 2011 @ 1:44 pm
    11. Karen
      March 24th, 2013 @ 12:59 am

      My son and daughter in law are having their first child. We are from US. She from Sweden. I am looking for books that have the text in boyhood English and Swedish. Do you know of any? Thanks. I am trying to learn Swedish, and this would really help. Thanks

    12. Zoe
      March 25th, 2013 @ 9:31 am

      Hi Karen,
      I personally don’t know of any, but maybe this could be of help http://svenskamammor.ning.com/ ?

      Zoe

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