Kidlit destinations in Iceland

posted in: 2. Illustrators and Authors | 6

Ok! You ready to get back on the road? Our next stop reading our way around Europe is Iceland!

Diving straight in, our first port of call is Nonni’s House, in Akureyri in northern Iceland, about 380 km from Reykjavík.

Nonnahus. Photo: Akureyri Museum

This is the former-home-turned-museum of Iceland’s noted children’s book author Nonni, the Jesuit priest Jón Sveinson (1857-1944). Although he left Iceland as a teenager, Nonni’s children’s stories based on the childhood in Iceland he shared with his brother Ármann, nicknamed “Manni” are popular in his homeland and have been translated into several other languages.

Images: Akureyri Museum

Sveinsson’s Nonni and Manni stories have also been adapted into a popular television series .

Although still in print in German, English language translations are not. I’ve had difficulty getting hold of a copy, but try your library – you might strike lucky!

Next on our itinerary is Gerðuberg, Reykjavik’s cultural centre, which hosts an annual exhibition of those illustrations from Icelandic children’s books which were published during the previous year. This year’s exhibition, “This is what the children like!” (Þetta vilja börnin sjá!) opened on January 23rd.

What the Children Like, January 2010. Illustrations on the wall are by Linda Olafsdottir.

In connection with the exhibition the annual the Dimmalimm award for illustration was this year presented to Karl Johann Jonsson for the book Sofus og svinid (Sofus and the pig).

Karl Johann Jonsson, winner of the Dimmalimm Award 2010, Photo: Gerduberg
Karl Johann Jonsson, winner of the Dimmalimm Award 2010, Photo: Gerduberg

As you might be able to tell from the photo above, Jonsson’s winning book is all about art. A painter, Sofus, has an assistant, a pig called Konrad. The pig helps him in all sorts of ways, cleaning, cooking, modelling and even choosing colours because Sofus is colour blind. The paintings Sofus creates look uncannily like some famous portraits, and indeed the book includes every original portrait with information about the relevant artist.

Photo: Gerduberg / Karl Johann Jonsson

The Dimmalimm award is named after a classic Icelandic children’s book written and illustrated by the artist Gudmundur Thorsteinsson – I’ll be returning to this book in a couple of posts time!

Another current exhibition at the Gerðuberg is The Loooooong Serpent. This exhibition has been curated and designed by Icelandic illustrator Kristín Ragna Gunnarsdóttir, winner of the Dimmalimm award in 2008.

Part of The Loooooong Serpent exhibition. Photo: Gerduberg

All about Norse mythology it looks like a wonderful exhibition!

Gerðuberg will also be the hosts for a conference next month (March 5th) of special interest to those who love children’s literature. Every year they host a conference, with a different topic each time. This year’s them is books for boys versus girls. Topics to be covered include what kind of books do they read and is there a difference between what they are offered and how much they read? This conference takes place on March 5th and if you’d like more details please contact Margrét Baldursdóttir

Finally, Iceland hosts a biannual, international children’s book festival. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait until 2012 for the next one! In the meantime, I hope you’ll be back next week to find out about Icelandic picture books that are available in English – we’ll be starting off on Monday with a very cute book about Puffins!

Have you ever been to Iceland? Have you read any book from Iceland or set in Iceland that you particularly enjoyed?

6 Responses

  1. Choxbox

    Lovely post as usual Zoe.

    One of our friends in London was Icelandic and went every summer to visit family – so have seen pictures. It is my (yet) unfulfilled wish to visit the place. Some day..

    Books based in Iceland – can’t remember any in particular. We did read one about exploreres which talks about how Iceland was first discovered etc. Will keep your recos in mind. Thanks.

    • Zoe

      Hi Choxbox, yes, I too would love to visit Iceland – for bird and volcanoes in particular! And the viking heritage….

  2. Jennifer

    I am completely in love with Krista Ruepp’s stories about horses set in Iceland – both picture books and early chapter books. Ruepp is German and her books are published by North South, but they’re all Icelandic characters and settings. They’re beautifully illustrated by Ulrike Heyne – I don’t know if he/she is German or Icelandic.

  3. Tasha

    Thanks for the great post – I’ve been to Iceland twice – both on 3 day stop overs to New York (it was the cheapest way for us to go there and visit NYC!) and I loved it, loved it, loved it. I would happily go back and would love to spend a lot more time there with this post handy to tell me where to go to get my children’s books fix.

    I spent a lot of time in a gorgeous bookshop in Rekyavik – many of the books were in English so there was quite a bit of spending but also I love browsing books in languages I can’t read – especially picture books. I’d love to visit Akureyri as so far we’ve never got much further than Rekyavik.

    • Zoe

      Oh lucky you Tasha – both NYC and Iceland! We’ve often dreamed about doing a Northern Island ferry holiday – the Orkneys, Shetland, Faroe Islands and Iceland and then perhaps on to Norway. It certainly used to be possible in the summer months, but I don’t know if the ferry companies still run all those routes.

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