Min första gästbok: för tips & råd i livet

Min första gästbokThyra Brandt has created a most charming little book that is certain to become a lasting treasure in many households around the country. Min första gästbok is a fill-in book, but it is much more advanced than I expected. When I was six, I received an autograph book for Christmas, and I had all my extended family members and friends at school write in the book with their personal message and signatures. I loved it. Min första gästbok has space for thirty-four ”guests,” including two VIP spots for parents. (Although, truth be told, I do wish there were more than two spots for parents, as many families are like ours with three or more.) As the title suggests, these pages invite much more sharing than my autograph book did. On the left side of the entry, there is a timeline from 1910 to 2050 with instructions to add real or imaginary events and a small square in which a guest can draw his or her self-portrait. The right side has nineteen fill-in-the-blank prompts. I appreciate how loose and open the prompts are. ”Jag är” and ”Du är” top the list, followed by increasingly deep opportunities to share advice like, ”Det är farligt, ”Det är roligt,” ”En person att beundra,” and ”Tro på.” The VIP parent spots also include the best part of being a parent, how the child came into the world, and the child’s likes and dislikes.

My ten-year-old was not at all interested in the book because it looks ”babyish” in his opinion, but my seven-year-old was thrilled by it. She had her English-speaking father fill out the first page and then took it to school just as I did thirty years ago. The concepts and lengthy amount of writing were almost too difficult and definitely too time-consuming for her friends. In fairness, the book is being sold as something to buy for a new baby or as a christening gift. The adults in the baby’s life are meant to fill out the pages and offer their wisdom to be read and appreciated for years to come. To that end, the book is genius, and I would absolutely give it as a gift for a new family.

My daughter’s father’s advice is golden and not just because he wrote, ”Lyssna på your Mama.” He also told her she should visit Venice, to have fun on roller coasters, that he wants to teach her to fish, that she should always remember to say what she thinks, and to believe that all people are equally valuable. Even if the book is not meant to be filled out by seven-year-olds, I still get a big kick out of how my daughter’s friend responded. She wrote, ”Du är min vän…Lär dig Svenska…Det är farligt att klappa ett lejon…Tro på Tomten.”

Excellent advice, all of it.

Min första gästbok: för tips & råd i livet
Författare: Thyra Brandt
Förlag: Ordalaget Bokförlag (2015)
Antal sidor: 68
ISBN: 9789174691153
Köp: Adlibris eller Bokus

Vi Vinner!

Vi Vinner coverVi Vinner! is a recent addition to the extra lätt att läsa Solgatan 1 series by Helena Bross and illustrated by Kadri Ilves. My kids just love the two main characters, Omar and Axel, especially my seven-year-old, who is the target age for these stories. She often studies the page of students in Axel and Omar’s class to see which names she recognizes from among her own classmates. (For the record, none.)

Vi Vinner! tells the story of Omar and Axel’s adventure during skoljoggen, which I gather is a school-wide race very common in Swedish schools that, in this book, adorably and oh-so-Swedishly takes place in the woods. Actually, I found much of this story adorable and Swedish. I have been living here for almost six months, so I am beginning to recognize what is particularly Swedish: mossy woods, extremely direct communication, low-key and laid-back interactions, coziness, calmness, measured and deliberate responses, a keen stewardship of nature, and fika. Vi Vinner! covers almost all of these.

Omar and Axel are excited about the race. We see them agree to run together, and we see Axel pack his best running shoes the night before. After some warm-up exercises, the race begins. The boys run so fast that they catch up to the third-graders and become convinced that they will indeed win the race!

Then a series of events causes Axel and Omar to delay their arrival at the finish line. Axel trips and injures his knees, they snack on wild blueberries while recovering, and they pick up a little lost dog along the way who becomes tired and must rest. The dog’s owner shows up later at the finish line, grateful to the boys for their help.

What I find particularly compelling about the story is that the boys are not at all disappointed about being last (and the teacher, although a bit worried, is not annoyed or angry with them for being gone so long). Life happened, and that’s all there is. I find this sentiment among my Swedish friends all the time. “Were you upset?” I’ll ask them. “Hmmm, no. It just happened,” they’ll respond with a shrug. As an expressive, hot-tempered person, I am fascinated by the even keel of the Swede. At first, I judged these traits as dispassionate and robotic, but now I am growing to appreciate such rootedness, and I realize I need more of it.

At the end of Vi Vinner!, Selda asks the boys where they were, and the book ends with Omar and Axel saying, “First, we picked blueberries, and then we found a dog.” See? Direct communication, calmness, measured responses. Everyone is walking and smiling. How charming! They did win in their own way. Perhaps the author did not intend quite so much analysis of her text, but I discover the secret to Swedish life here: how could it be anything but winning when you wait for your friend, rescue a dog, have a snack, and rest in the woods? No one is upset. Life happens, and isn’t it wonderful.

Vi Vinner!
Författare: Helena Bross
Illustratör: Kadri Ilves
Förlag: Bonnier Carlsen (2014)
Antal sidor: 60
ISBN: 9789163876134
Köp: Adlibris eller Bokus

Dogge delar ut paket

Dogge delar ut paket coverDogge delar ut paket is a seek-and-find book written and illustrated by Tor Freeman and translated into Swedish by Suzanne Öhman. It tells the story of a day in the life of Dogge, a canine postal carrier in a bustling town. Via scooter, Dogge delivers one package at a time to grateful professionals in a museum, a laboratory, a greenhouse, a market square, and a theatre. All recipients have been waiting on their respective package contents, and the reader is able to see just how each package will be used. Dogge’s final package of the day is his own daughter’s birthday present.

This book has all the silly, colorful, engaging illustrations you would expect with a seek-and-find book. What stands out to me is that, aside from one hungry child, the characters in this book are friendly and joyful, playfully interacting with each other and their environment. This is a happy town.

When I first met my husband, I bought a Swedish-English picture dictionary for children, thinking it would be perfect for learning vocabulary words. It turned out that no one was interested. It’s pretty boring to thumb through words and pictures with no context or storyline. What I have discovered now is that seek-and-find books easily overcome that hurdle. At the bottom of every other page of Dogge delar ut paket, the reader is asked to find seven things on that page, which means by the end of the book, my kids have learned the names of forty-two items without even realizing it. Perfect. A bonus is that many of the items have adjectives to describe them like “en sjungande mus” and “en randig halsduk,” so we learn even more.

The storyline text is simple enough for me to read and for the kids to understand with no problem. I really like that the characters speak to each other in small dialogue bubbles and use everyday, colloquial expressions like “tjena” and “oj” that are typically omitted from Swedish courses or other language resources. It’s also helpful for a beginner to understand how sounds are conceived in the new language, and this book has several good ones that were new to me: pust, gäsp, tjoff, and pling plong.

Seek-and-find books are a reliable genre for entertaining children, but Dogge delar ut paket is unusually beneficial for the new Swede and no doubt fun for all families.


Dogge delar ut paket
Text och illustration: Tor Freeman
Översättning: Suzanne Öhman
Antal sidor: 32
Förlag: Rabén & Sjögren (2014)
ISBN: 9789129694291
Köp: t.ex. hos Bokus eller Adlibris

Am I small? Är jag liten?

am-i-small-ar-jag-liten-childrens-picture-book-english-swedish-bilingual-editionIt could be entirely predictable for my first post to be a bilingual picture book. If you are a little disappointed by my lack of originality, I can only promise to make it up to you later. Am I small? Är jag liten? is indeed a Swedish/English picture book written by Philipp Winterberg and illustrated by Nadja Wichmann. All text is presented first in Swedish, followed by the English translation in an alternate font. However, this book is available in more than one hundred foreign language editions and more than one thousand bilingual editions in nearly every imaginable world language combination, including German/Indonesian. Pretty impressive, right? It’s a great idea and obviously very marketable. I had my doubts as to whether the story would be compelling and the production decent. I took a chance, and I’m glad I did.

I should be as upfront as possible with you, dear reader. It is not that strong an endorsement for me to say that I cried while reading a book or watching a movie or driving through the hills of Brösarp. The truth is that I am moved to tears frequently and much more often than the average person. However, if I cried the second time? Then we know it’s good. There is my official endorsement for the emotional impact of this particular book. Similar to a five-star rating, Am I small? Är jag liten? gets the two-tear award.

It was a real treat to find such a sweet story arc in twenty-eight pages of very simple and short text. The protagonist, a young girl of about five, is surprised to hear that she is small and sets out to determine if it’s true. She encounters creatures of all sizes, both fantastic and mundane, who can only compare her to themselves. In the end, she comes to a conclusion founded in self-love and self-acceptance. Winterberg does not disappoint and uses the opportunity to encourage reflection around the judgment of ourselves and others, even in very young readers.

Wichmann’s bright and fun illustrations set a terrific backdrop for this story. In addition to the juxtaposition of real and pretend creatures, the illustrator weaves together the mechanical and the natural, like in her drawing of a multi-gadget metal boat attached by a leafy tree trunk to a giant’s red fur. All my favorite motifs are included here: stripes, polka dots, stars, trees, apples, mushrooms, flowers, foxes, monsters, even a German philosophy text collage effect.

Am I small sample2I am always looking for bedtime books that cover the ages of my three children, currently 10, 7, and 4. As you may know, this is no easy feat. Because Wichmann knocks it out of the park with her illustrations, all three kids enjoy discovering new details on the pages. The eldest, who is now learning to read Swedish, takes on the Swedish text. The middle child reads the English translation, and the little guy listens and enjoys. On nights when everyone is already tucked into bed, I read both texts aloud and am not intimidated or stumped by the Swedish words. This is a big one; I usually must defer to my Swedish husband in cases like these, so to be able to read it myself feels empowering and motivating. The repetition and vocabulary centered on nuanced degrees of size (pytteliten, enorm, gigantisk, mikroskopisk) is extremely helpful for Swedish language learners. You may consider this book for your family if you are learning Swedish or if you want to begin to include English in your storytime. You may also want to consider the German/Indonesian version, although I admit I will not be able to help you read that one aloud.

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Am I small? Är jag liten?
Författare: Philipp Winterberg
Illustratör: Nadja Wichmann
Förlag: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2014)
Antal sidor: 28
ISBN: 9781494874865
Köp: Adlibris eller Bokus

Ny barnbokspratare: Laura Geiger

Hej!laura-portraits069

How exciting to be welcomed to Barnboksprat as its first English-language blogger! I bring a unique perspective as a writer and mother who is in the process of learning not only the Swedish language but what it means to be Swedish, an experience that now one in five people living in Sweden share.

After only three months of living in Sweden, it is clear to me that Americans, with our high energy and intense emotions, stick out among Swedes like a sore thumb. I can only hope that going forward, my enthusiasm is more charming than annoying and that our readers, whether Swedish-language learners or native speakers, glean something useful from my reviews. Just as in real life, I look forward to creating space where everyone is welcome.

I call myself a serial expat because I moved from the USA to Canada to France and now to Österlen. My days of country hopping may finally be over, but the experience of immigrating will last for years to come. Maintaining personal identity while negotiating a sense of belonging in a new culture is a tricky process for both children and adults. The good news is that books help. Children’s books, especially, provide a window into a country’s widely embraced cultural commonality and heritage. Add to that the simplified language and supporting illustrations, and you have a crash course for new Swedes on the shelves of your local library.

I am a poet, artist, and enthusiastic supporter of expressive arts. I have worked as an elementary art teacher and as a homeschooling mama to my three children (born in 2004, 2007, and 2010). With an academic background in sociology and interest in second language acquisition, I am eager to share how our family is using children’s books to navigate our first steps into this new land of ours.

Happy reading!
Laura