Tag Archives: Astrid Lindgren

The deposit

I found my thoughts straying to Seacrow Island the other day. About how handy it would be to be able to put down a 10p deposit on a house, because you’re a nice person and the house owner is another nice person. And you can afford it because you didn’t have that third ice cream, leaving you with 10p for those unexpected needs.

Hands up, if you know what I am talking about! Do you know your Seacrow Island? Any Swede my age, and quite possibly every generation since, knows Saltkråkan very, very well. That’s the book by Astrid Lindgren which started life as a television series, and that’s how we all know it. And because it’s a symbol of everything that is Swedish. And because it’s repeated on television every year, or so it seems.

Snickargården

At the end of a wonderful summer on an island in the Stockholm archipelago, Pelle – a boy of seven or eight – finds himself at a loose end on the mainland, while his father Melker and his two older brothers are running around town trying to find an estate agent. The house they have rented and fallen in love with, is to be sold to some rich man who wants to flatten it and build a new, grand ‘bungalow.’ A last minute windfall means that Melker is ‘in the running’ to buy the house as well. If he can get there first.

Pelle and his friend Tjorven spend some of their money on ice cream. Then they have a second ice cream each. When Tjorven – hopefully – raises the question of a third ice cream, Pelle says it’s good to save some money for a rainy day. And then they set out to find the owner of the house. After climbing onto the balcony where the old lady is dozing, they tell her everything.

When the estate agent and the rich man, with Melker close on their heels, arrive at Mrs Sjöblom’s, it turns out they are too late. The house has already been sold. The rich man is furious and Melker cries. At least until it is explained to him that it is Pelle who has put his last krona as down payment for their holiday paradise.

What’s more, it was Tjorven who earned that money from the rich man for tying up his boat so expertly. He should learn not to tip the natives…

Darcy, death and the literary discussion

Death Comes to Pemberley sparked a literary discussion chez Bookwitch, and doesn’t that make us sound ‘intellectual?’ The Grandmother had read the book by P D James, and didn’t think much of it. She was keen to see what they’d done to it on television, though, and I am under the impression we all liked it.

That’s the thing with quality. A good book can be ruined on the screen and vice versa. You just never know. Daughter objected at first that we weren’t getting the 1995 cast from Pride and Prejudice, but warmed fairly quickly to this new Darcy. I didn’t know what to think of dear Wickham, because I need to dislike him, and I happen to like Matthew Goode…

But anyway, it made us talk books for a while (because we never ever mention the wretched things at any other time!)

Who counts as an author of classics? Jane Austen obviously does. Her books are really old. Victorians count. They too are old. But after that my ‘misguided’ companions wanted to put the classic label on all sorts of books by all sorts of recent writers!

I realise that classic-ness is a moving feast. What wasn’t a classic before, will become one at some point. My own gut measure is somewhere around the 100 years mark. If someone alive today was also alive when a novel was written, it becomes questionable. I know that the 1950s was a long time ago, but I happen to have personal experience of part of that decade and the people who wrote books then are not at all old, thank you very much!

So I’m not ready to consider Astrid Lindgren a writer of classic books, whereas I feel that Selma Lagerlöf might have been too recent fifty years ago, but is now definitely to be considered a writer of classics.

On the other hand, I see the flaws in this. Someone younger than me will share that same 100-year-old, but will also see Astrid Lindgren as dreadfully ancient. Is there a right way?

But Mummy read that!

What will today’s young readers want to force their – as yet unborn – children to read? Or if they are really understanding parents (rather like me!) simply sigh over and decide that maybe XXX is a bit old-fashioned and since there are so many lovely new books, they will just let Little Darling read those instead.

With it being Roald Dahl day later this week, I was thinking about an article I read, which said that it’s mainly the parents who favour Dahl’s books now. Because they were the books they themselves read as children. (With me it was the other way round. I read Dahl to keep abreast of what Son and his peers liked.)

So what didn’t I force Offspring to read? Primarily the ‘real’ classics. The books that were pretty ancient even in my time, like The Three Musketeers and Ivanhoe, or Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I could almost forgive them for having no interest at all in those books.

But more ‘contemporary’ books like Pippi Longstocking were required reading. Or so I thought. Reading which we got round by watching the films and the television series. And then I discovered that Pippi was a bit of a bully, and nowhere near as funny as I remembered her to be.

Perhaps that’s how Roald Dahl’s books appear to children now? I can recall how appalled I was, seeing George’s Marvellous Medicine on stage. It really brought home the awfulness of those books. To this day I can’t bear Willy Wonka.

It won’t be long until a whole Harry Potter generation start to forcefeed their children wizards and witches and wands. Those readers are already beginning to pop up as authors (it’s probably quicker to write a book than to give birth to a new reader), having been inspired by Harry and Co.

If you don’t read Dahl now, you are very likely enjoying Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid or Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum. How long until they are the parents’ choice? Thirty years, maybe.

I get the impression that Enid Blyton still works, even without any arm twisting. I expected Daughter to like the Nancy Drew books and bought two with lovely period covers, and they are still sitting on a shelf in pristine condition.

The thing is, Mother-of-witch never suggested books to me. I read all of hers. There weren’t many, and I didn’t own a lot myself, so anything that was available got attention. Hers were mainly what girls had in the 1930s, so neither terribly classic or incredibly modern. They were just books.

Jules Verne, Till jordens medelpunkt

Perhaps if my childhood books had been in a language they could read, Offspring would have foraged and found something to enjoy.

Yeah, that’s probably it. Wrong language. Not wrong books.

Translated

It should have been like Desert Island Discs, where you are encouraged to think beyond the world of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. The authors should have been told that ‘no, you can’t have the Moomins; people always pick it. Think of another translated book!’ (Apologies to Gill Lewis who was allowed to choose the Authors’ Author.)

After all, the rest of the world must be able to offer one or two children’s books not originally published in English (which is a great language, but not the only one). There’s the Moomins. Still leaves at least one other book.

In The Guardian’s list of favourite – translated – children’s books nine authors have picked theirs. It’s everything from Tove Jansson and Astrid Lindgren to Janne Teller and Kim Fupz Aakeson and Niels Bo Bojesen. It is a varied list. But I suppose I’d hoped for something different. As I said, ban Astrid and Tove, and probably Erich Kästner, too, and what do you get?

The Resident IT Consultant muttered about classics, but it’s hard enough to get children to read English language classics. I’d like to see more recent fiction translated. You know, the kind of books German and Italian and Finnish children have enjoyed in the last five or ten years. (And I don’t mean Harry Potter!)

I don’t know what they are. That’s why I rely on publishers, whose job it is to bring out books. But I do know that the few modern French books I’ve read, have all been better than average. I’m suspecting there could be more where they came from.

Even setting aside very country specific fiction, there must be a few books that would appeal to British and American children? I’m not counting the Australians or readers in New Zealand, because those countries seem more open to books from ‘other’ places.

Mårten Sandén, whose book I reviewed on Monday, has written lots of books. He’s not the only Swede to have done so. Take a group of successful children’s writers from maybe ten countries, and you should have a lot of choice. Nordic crime is popular with older readers, so why not for children?

There are one or two ‘crime novels’ from my own childhood which still stand out in my memory. I have no idea how well they’d do today. It could be that the grass seemed greener then. In which case there must be some fresh grass to replace my hazy memories.

Gunnel Linde, Osynliga Klubben och Kungliga Spöket

And if you think children don’t want to read about strange children in strange places, there were millions of us who consumed Nesbit and Blyton despite their foreign-ness, and don’t even get me started on Harry Potter…

Isol and Victoria

If I rant about the lack of television coverage of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award ceremony in the UK, someone is bound to tell me it was on somewhere. (Was it?) I was lucky several years running in that I went to Sweden for half term and there it was, right on time. Big celebration with royalty and everything.

Music. Speeches. Foreign award winners shivering under blankets. With so much rubbish readily available, why not broadcast a little ceremony and very little pomp, even if it is rather foreign?

Argentinian winner Isol even danced the tango. Apparently. I bet Seamus Heaney didn’t do Riverdance for the Nobel prize.

She’s short, Isol. Although that sounds both too personal as well as rude (nothing wrong with being short). What I probably mean is I had no idea Crown Princess Victoria is quite so tall. We’ve not yet had cause to meet up, so I didn’t know. Taller than the minister for culture.

Isol and Crown Princess Victoria, by Stefan Tell

You see, if I’d been able to watch, I’d not have to resort to going on about what people looked like in the official photographs.

I expect there was less shivering, and possibly no blankets this year. They appear to have moved the whole shindig indoors. It doesn’t matter about the Swedish royals. They have practised sitting out of doors – totally umbrella-less – and smiling through almost anything. But foreigners, they are a more tender species.

As well as short. I can think of several non-tall winners. Philip Pullman, on the other hand, turned out to be taller than I had expected, so he probably beat Victoria.

And I still worry about the sheer amount of money. Is it right to give that much to one individual? I’d almost decided it wasn’t, but then I thought about people winning the lottery. All they’ve done is buy a ticket. At least these winners are professional writers and artists; one of whom is chosen every year.

Perhaps it is OK. Especially for someone who tangoes.

Happy Birthday, Emil!

I have it on fairly good authority that Emil in Lönneberga is fifty today. Although – as you probably know – he must be quite a lot older, really. Something like just over a hundred, maybe?

Astrid Lindgren’s Emil lived at the beginning of the last century, and to start with he was a little boy. (When he was a fully proper adult he became chairman of the local council.)

But, today it’s fifty years since Astrid needed to calm her grandson who was having a tantrum, and so she came up with Emil. Hujedamej.

The theory is that if Emil was a child today, he’d be diagnosed with something or other. And then he’d be given medication to take for it. (Only in some countries, I’d say.)

To be perfectly truthful, as a child I found Emil a bit too boisterous for my comfort. I like a quieter kind of fictional hero. He got up to so many naughty things, all the time! But there was good in him, I could see that. I was very grateful I wasn’t his sister, being raised to the top of the flagpole. But she did ask.

When the film version came, I was really too old, but this being a National Treasure kind of situation, I went to see it, along with the rest of the country. We can all still hear Allan Edwall as the screen Dad shouting Eeeemmiiil!!!

Soup tureen

And the soup tureen adventure always worried me more than it should. I inherited a soup tureen, and all I can think of when I see it is to imagine Emil’s head stuck inside.

I should start thinking of soup.

ALMA 2013

When is one o’clock not one? Or twelve, or two?

I failed on a technicality yesterday. The sandwich was ready, the orange was peeled and the tea just right. So was I. Ready, more than right or peeled. I was going to sit down to watch the announcement of who would be five million kronor better off. Yes, it was ALMA time. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was about to be awarded.

It was 11.52. It was 11.52 both in the UK and CET. That’s not possible. I checked. It’s before summer time, so it wasn’t that either. But my noon announcement was not about to happen until one. Or so the countdown thingy suggested. At 12.01 facebook (yes, fb again) pinged, and one of my savvy fb friends announced the award had gone to Isol.

I refreshed all pages that could be refreshed. It said 58 minutes to go. I did what any sensible bookwitch would do. I picked up my early lunch and went to read a book instead.

At one I tried to see if the system would be more amenable. It wasn’t. It was error messages all round. The ALMA press office had emailed the glad tidings at 12.11, so I knew I could expect no more.

Isol is an Argentinian illustrator, cartoonist, graphic artist, writer, singer and composer. From what I could see in the press release there were only Spanish titles, and whereas I have actually heard of her, it was yet another Nobel style choice of someone many people won’t know at all. I imagine the Spanish speaking world – which is large – do know her work.

Isol, by Xavier Martin

I wish Isol all the best, but I can’t help feeling that my first thought when I saw ISOL in capitals on fb was that it was an organisation getting the money this year. I believe organisations can do more with these kind of sums. I sometimes wonder if the jury are aware quite how much money they are handing out. I mean really, really.

Bookwitch bites #94

I am the proud owner of a signed copy of Basu ni Notte. And I didn’t even know that it was called that, because I don’t read Japanese. (I know. It looks rather like Italian.) That in itself will tell you that my reading of Basu ni Notte has not gone terribly well, either, since I don’t read Japanese, and the book is in Japanese. Picture book, but still.

Ryoji Arai, Basu ni Notte

Ryoji Arai

So I stand to benefit from the new reading guides issued by the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award people. They have just come up with twelve guides for books by ten recipients of the ALMA, one of whom is Ryoji Arai. He shared the prize with Philip Pullman in 2005. That’s when I was crazy enough to go to Gothenburg just to hear Philip speak. A side effect was meeting up with this Japanese author and illustrator.

He supposedly didn’t speak English, but he did – a little – when it came to the crunch.

No language troubles at all with Marion Lloyd. As you can tell, I’ve not ‘bitten’ anyone here for a while, which is why I am offering you old news. Or not news so much, as a link to what I thought was a very nice blog post by Susie Day about this super-editor when she retired.

I don’t know why we seldom write really lovely articles about people before they retire, or worse, die. I want to know now. Except I don’t know what I want to know, because you haven’t written about those fantastic people yet.

And speaking of fantastic and reading, I eventually enticed Daughter to read the best book of 2012. None of us have got round to much reading during the recent eating season, but once the suggestion was made, she found it hard to stop until she was done. She, too, liked Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

I have no expectation of reading hundreds of books during 2013, but a few would be nice. I need to start collecting for the next ‘best of’ award. But as Cathy Butler said in her blog post about reading speed, we are allowed to be really slow. It’s not better to be fast.

Although it would be handy.

In the Land of Twilight

No, this isn’t about that Twilight! This is one of the more unknown (to me) books by Astrid Lindgren, and one I feel certain I never read before coming across the English translation. In fact, the description of the story had me worried in case it turned out to be about the little fat man with the propeller on his back.

It’s not, but apparently it led to the books about Karlsson-on-the-roof, so my fears were not totally unfounded.

Astrid Lindgren, In the Land of Twilight

The young boy Goran (Göran) has a bad leg, so can’t go out. He is visited by strange Mr Lilyvale who takes him out on adventures around Stockholm, but only in the twilight hour. Goran gets to have all sorts of adventures this way, seeing unusual sights and getting to do all sorts of things. He drives a bus and talks to an elk (I refuse to say moose!) and meets the King of Twilight.

Astrid Lindgren, In the Land of Twilight

Marit Törnqvist has done the illustrations, and because we are so used to seeing other people’s pictures in Astrid Lindgren’s books, this almost doesn’t feel like an Astrid Lindgren. Marit’s pictures of Stockholm by twilight are dreamlike, and very attractive.

I want to go on that tram.

Bookwitch bites #81

If you fancy listening to Eoin Colfer swear and curse you shouldn’t click on this video from the launch of Paul O’Brien’s debut adult crime novel Blood Red Turns Dollar Green. (No, I don’t know what that means.) It seems Eoin was looking forward to having left the children’s world behind (why?), when he discovered there were children present, so he had to clean up his act in praising his fellow Wexford author. Or he might have made that up. He’s also shorter than the first presenter in this clip.

The sound quality isn’t marvellous, and it sounds like it’s raining (it’s Ireland, after all), but you have to admire an author who uses his speech at someone else’s launch to talk about himself… Just joking. I still have to get over the beard.

Mentioning Eoin some more, I see the last Artemis Fowl is almost with us. July can’t get here soon enough. Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian. It sounds like a newspaper advert, but that’s OK.

Being Irish could be enough to enter the multilingual poetry competition run by the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. If you are lucky enough to be aged under 19, and you have a first language other than English you can enter this competition with a poem in your own language. English native speakers learning a foreign language can also enter by writing a poem in the other  language.

I have no poetry writing skills, so it’s just as well I’m old. For anyone else who is interested, go to Mother Tongue Other Tongue for more information. And write fast. The deadline is 28th May. The Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy will present the prizes to winners on 30th June.

That other award – the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award – will be presented on the 28th May, and I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I thought it was going to be on the 22nd (for some obscure reason, not known even to me) and worried in case Crown Princess Victoria had double-booked herself, forgetting she has a baby that needs Christening. On the 22nd. But all is well, and Guus Kuijer will presumably be able to shake the royal hand after all.

Last year when I was searching for foreign reads I believed it’d be both easy and logical for me to read something Finnish. Not actually in Finnish. Obviously. Failed in my research and gave up. Then the other day the Resident IT Consultant (who clearly had nothing better to do than surf the net) sent me a link to an article about Finnish books (which had been translated – into Swedish).

Sinikka and Tiina Nopola are sisters writing books about a Finnish rapper by the name of Risto. I love the original title, Risto Räppääjä. You really can’t have too many äs in a word. Expecting great things I went in search of Risto in a more manageable shape. He’s out of print… So that’s that.

Räppääjä, Räppääjä!