Thursday, 16 June 2016

Swedish children's books in the University Library

Ilka Heale browses some of the children's books held in our collections.

Whilst searching through our Literature section, I came across a collection of children's books written in Swedish. Four of the authors were born and lived in Sweden, and the fifth also wrote in Swedish (although she was Finnish).

Why do we have them? Well, the short answer is that I don't know! The Library has over a million books, the majority of which have been bought for teaching and research. However, we also have many books that have been donated over the years and these may have been part of a gift.

Now, I can't read Swedish, but I have read some of these stories by Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson in translation both as a child and as an adult.

Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002) was a writer of fiction and screenplays but she also wrote children's books. Her most famous creation is Pippi Longstocking, a nine-year-old girl who has superhuman strength!

Photograph of an illustration from Pippi Långstrump by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi was named by Lindgren's then nine-year-old daughter, Karin, who requested a get-well story from her mother one day when she was home sick from school. This interview with Karin in 2015, explains how her mother came up with the stories.

Front cover of Mumintrollet no. 4 by Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson (1914– 2001) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish novelist, painter, illustrator and comic strip author. She is best known as the author of the Moomin books for children. The first book in the series, The Moomins and the Great Flood, appeared in 1945; however it was the next two books, Comet in Moominland (1946) and Finn Family Moomintroll (1948) that brought her fame.

In 1951 Finn Family Moomintroll was translated into English. The book's success caught the attention of Charles Sutton, a London agent who offered Jansson a lucrative deal to produce a Moomin comic strip for London's Evening News newspaper. Jansson agreed to produce six strips a week for seven years, starting in 1954. It was an instant hit, reaching up to 20 million readers daily in over 40 countries.

Along with books on the Moomins in Swedish we also have two biographies, The sculptor's daughter: a childhood memoir and Tove Jansson: life, art, words: the authorised biography.

Extract from Mumintrollet by Tove Jansson
Maria Gripe (1923-2007) was an author of books for children and young adults. Although she wrote stories as a child, Gripe did not publish her first book until she was 31. Her first notable success came in the 1960s with a trilogy of books about two school friends, Hugo and Josephine. Over the course of her career, Gripe wrote 38 books, translated into 30 different languages.

Elsa Beskow (1874–1953) was both an author and an illustrator of children's books. As a child, Beskow loved fairy tales and her stories would combine reality with elements of fantasy from fairy tales. Known as the Beatrix Potter of Scandinavia, her illustrations take the reader back to an idyllic, rural Sweden at the turn of the 20th century.

Photograph of the front cover of Sagan om den lilla lilla gumman by Elsa Beskow
Paul Lennart Hellsing (1919–2015) was a writer and translator, particularly known for his nonsense rhymes and word plays. In his books written for children, he experimented with language, playing with words and verb forms. During his career, Hellsing wrote over a hundred books for children and translated and interpreted nearly as many, especially from English.

Photograph of an illustration from Krakel spektakel boken by Lennart Hellsing

To find more books by these authors, along with other material on children's books and illustration, search YorSearch, our Library catalogue.

There is also a small collection of children's literature In the Morrell building. The Peggy Janiurek collection can be found on the first floor, at the end of the Education section. The collection was assembled originally in collaboration with the University's Department of Educational Studies, and named in memory of a former student.

The Library's Special Collections also holds a number of late 18th and 19th century children's literature including books illustrated by Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane among others.

Photograph of the title page of The Golden Staircase : poems and verses for children

Items from the Special Collections can be consulted in the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

The Library has many texts in languages other than English. To find them, search on our Library catalogue and choose the language facets on the left hand side.

All photographs have been taken by Paul Shields, University photographer.

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