Sofi Poulsen’s first book, illustrated by Per Von Schantz, is a total gem. I love books that take on the typical princess story and turn it on its head. This one even has a modern upgrade with many references to technology and quirky jokes that adults will enjoy.
Prince Nikolai is looking for companionship (no, really – just a friend) because he is lonely. He uses an online service and finds a princess who is interested in both science and reading books. When he invites her to visit his castle, she arranges a witch’s broom taxi service and begins to plot how she will get around the princess-eating dragon outside. She does indeed succeed with her clever plan, leaving her to enjoy the friendship of the prince. ”Nu skulle de inte vara ensamma mer.”
This is a fun, fast read that had my kids enraptured. The story is cheerful and unexpected, and the illustrations match perfectly with their wild colors and playful skyscapes. A great addition to your shelf, especially if you are interested in Swedish books that promote equality and diversity.
Sagan om Prinsen & Princessan och lite om draken också
Författare: Sofi Poulsen
Illustration: Per von Schantz
Förlag: Sofi Poulsen (2015)
Köp: t.ex. hos Bokus eller Adlibris
Oh, I just find this book so exciting. It is exactly what I have been wanting to find. Eleonore Nilsson Odén did her research in the Folklore Archives in Lund and wrote a children’s book that recounts the historical and cultural milieu of the 1800s in Skåne, while capturing the folklore magic of that time. It’s “en äkta skånsk saga” that describes to the reader just what it was like to live on a farm, old-school Skånsk style with a real gårdstomte, complete with tricks, rumors, and placations.
Being new to this country and culture, I have not really understood the tomte phenomenon until reading this book. (“So, wait, there are tiny Santas hanging out in the barn?”) Now I get how these supernatural beliefs and experiences were intertwined with life. Odén conveys information on period dress, food, and family life through her lovely pencil drawings, beautifully woven with short tales of tomte hijinx.
At the end, we see that as agriculture gave way to industry, our little farm friends began to disappear, but the book gives a special tip to the reader on where to look for the shapeshifting magic of the tomte even today.
Goe-nissen would make a fantastic Christmas gift for kids of any age, especially the 6-9 set. I can imagine there have been generations of children asking to hear these kinds of tales told around the fireplace. Many thanks to Eleonore Nilsson Odén for making that magic accessible to us all again.
Goe-nissen, en äkta skånsk saga
Text och illustration: Eleonore Nilsson Odén
Antal sidor: 28
Förlag: Odéns Bild & Förlag (2015)
Köp: hos Odéns eller lokalt hos Tranes
Anna Andergrahn has written an adorable book that introduces children to the concepts of death and reincarnation in a way that is reassuring, gentle, and playful. Comparing people to snails and their bodies to shells, the reader follows along as a snail dies, leaving his friends sad and missing him. We see the snail flying around, free of his shell and happy as can be. (”Men snigeln är glad. Det är härligt att vara utan skal. Nu är den helt fri.”)
He is reunited with his grandparents and has lots of fun being so free. After a while, he considers coming back to a shell and begins to choose his new life, complete with ”punkaföräldrar” and electric guitar skills. He forgets the past once he begins his new life, and at the end we really understand that life is just shell after shell, experience after experience.
As much as I hate to admit it, most spiritual-themed books for kids are trite at best, and my kids never want anything to do with them. This one? I had to pry it from my daughter’s hand in order to write the review. Kids love this book because it’s not preachy, and it’s not written like the kid version of an adult self-help book. Instead, it reads just like any other children’s book and lets the child interpret the metaphor to the degree she is comfortable.
Death is not an easy subject for many families. I recommend Tänk om människor(…) as an excellent opener for all kinds of discussions around death and spirituality and for parents wanting to introduce the idea that we are more than our bodies.
The language is mostly easy for a parent new to Swedish. Although I learned some new vocabulary words, it did not feel burdensome to read. The illustrations, drawn by the author, are simple and cute, and the author has a Facebook page where she posts more inspiring and sweet ”Tänk om” ideas.
Tänk om människor är som osynliga sniglar
Författare: Anna Andergrahn
Illustratör: Anna Andergrahn
Förlag: Andefrid (2015)
Köp: t.ex. hos Bokus eller Adlibris
Erik Magntorn’s story goes that a very loud, very angry, very tall Viking named Halvdan Hårde notoriously made bad decisions and forced other people to do what he wanted. He was basically a giant bully. This time, he wanted to set sail at a dangerous time of year and forced the villagers into his ship to find a distant land to plunder. However, as suspected, a hole in the ship forced the group to make an emergency stop on a nearby island. The villagers finally took back their power by fixing the boat and secretly setting sail in the middle of the night while Halvdan snored unknowingly. When Halvdan woke up, he underwent a transformation but not the one the audience is hoping for. He didn’t realize that his behavior had produced his circumstances and swear to become gentle and loving. It’s not a redemption story, unless you focus on the men who tapped into their courage and cunning to outsmart someone who had always controlled them.
What sells the book for me is less the story and more how it is presented. The text is written in a simple four-line rhyme pattern, which not only makes the book lovely to read aloud but helps a Swedish language learner immensely with pronunciation. Rhyming books are always my favourite to read! The size of the book, 178mm by 300mm, is quite unique and adds to the feeling that one is reading an ancient text. The incredible woodcut illustrations by Staffan Gnosspelius are the perfect choice to accompany this story: creepy and dark but playful enough to keep the story feeling light and easy for the younger ones. Halvdan is drawn as more silly than scary, and the muted colours contribute to the historical vibe. I appreciate how different Magntorn’s book looks from the majority of choices on the shelves these days. It’s a meaty choice for kids who appreciate more in a book than having their own lives reflected back to them.
Sagan om Halvdan Hårde
Författare: Erik Magntorn
Illustratör: Staffan Gnosspelius
Förlag: Hirschfeld Förlag (Mars 2015)
Antal sidor: 32
Köp: t.ex. hos Bokus
A predominant quality I have come to discover in Swedish culture is the very same one I discover in Inger Hansson’s Äventyret med väsken: an unconcerned, calm, composed approach to life. Like most Swedes I know, the characters in this book take life, and its events, as they unfold. Jesper and Erik travel by train to spend a vacation week with Erik’s grandparents by the sea. Jesper accidentally picks up a bag identical to his own when getting off the train and so does not arrive ready for all the activities the boys had planned. There is no real worrying or wringing of hands. Instead, the boys have fun. They swim and snorkel, go boating, discover a carnival, and eventually locate the owner of the swapped bag and exchange back. I doubt this story would be called an adventure if it were written in English. The boys would have to near-drown or get terribly lost or break an arm. Hansson’s idea of an adventure is wholly charming and, I believe, quite Swedish.
The author writes as though she truly understands children, the way they view the world, and the way they talk about it with each other. More than once, the dialogue reminded me of Beverly Cleary, who in my mind is the gold standard for getting inside the mind of a child. The one hundred-page, eight-chapter book is peppered with interesting facts about nature, animals, safety, and environmentalism. My seven-year-old is not able to read the bigger words but enjoyed hearing the book read aloud. A likely sweet spot for really being able to enjoy the storyline and identify with the main characters is age six to eight. Illustrator Daniella Birkebo has drawn quirky, simplistic cartoons that may cause a kid older than eight to dismiss the book as something for the littler ones.
Jesper & Erik: äventyret med väskan
Författare: Inger Hansson
Illustratör: Daniella Birkebo
Förlag: Vulkan (2014)
Köp: t.ex. hos Bokus eller Adlibris