Tag Archives: Astrid Lindgren

Change – the new notes

When I started moaning about change six years ago, I had no idea it would turn into my [own] favourite topic. Like when I had to go to the bank and ended up leaving all my ‘dead’ 50 öre coins on the counter, because this money institution had a slight problem with actually taking/handling money.

The bank has now moved on from such simple tricks. Literally. It has moved upstairs, so no longer has a street level presence. Where I was unable to launder money, you can now buy toiletries, in the town’s umpteenth new pharmacy (I knew there was a reason they used to be state-owned in the good old days. One or two will do nicely for any town.) where – to be fair – they actually gave the Retired Children’s Librarian a free face cleaning product last week. (No, she wasn’t dirty. She had her stuff confiscated by airport security.)

Not having ventured up, I have no idea what they don’t do, but my bet is on serving customers in general. And when no one has ventured up for a year or two, they will be free to close it down due to a lack of demand.

Anyway, Sweden has new bank notes. Daughter and I carefully spent all the first batch of old notes last August, so we wouldn’t have trouble this year. Only to find a) that the Resident IT Consultant still had his old notes and b) that shops still hand them out as change… Only 12 more days of this though. The new Astrid Lindgren twenty is very nice, but like Son said, it’s a shame she had to kick Selma Lagerlöf out.

The second batch of bank notes will be a year later, so I foresee a repeat next summer of trying to lose the money before it’s too late.

Which brings me to the loose change. The coins are going as well. The hoarder in me didn’t merely collect 50 öre coins in the past. I have a lovely collection of, mainly, one krona coins. It was topping 400 on arrival three weeks ago. And I rather despaired of going to the bank with my hoard, for obvious reasons.

Son and Dodo kindly bought ice cream with some of it; taking a bag of 50 each time they went. I forced one bag on the Resident IT Consultant to have in the car, and to park extravagantly, i.e. the right side of the river, whenever we went into town. I bought a loaf of bread (it has to be small purchases) with my last Selma and then laboriously counted up seven coins while the shop assistant fell asleep waiting. In other words, I was just like all those other old women you end up standing behind in a queue.

I’m hoping someone will come and buy more ice cream, or perhaps engage in minigolf, with the rest of my bags of money.

But what I really want to know of course, is how to go to the toilet in future. How to spend a penny, even if that penny is more poundlike. Or will there be no more public toilets?

Late to the party

She’s by no means ancient, but the Retired Children’s Librarian isn’t as young as she was. So it was much appreciated that she popped round for a couple of days, even if she was late for the party. On purpose.

Plane at Halmstad airport

Flying in from Stockholm to our local, rather small, airport, she wisely refrained from staying with us and went to a hotel in town. We had an Indian dinner, followed by ‘Indian’ coffee, which apparently wasn’t very good. This is a woman who only drinks water and coffee (many years ago when she really wanted to try muesli, she agonised over what liquid to have it with, and opted for coffee…)

I’d hoped to lure her into the – to her – new library, on the way from dinner to bed, but she declared it ugly and said no. I gather she is still in touch with her old boss who keeps her updated on who [from the library] has died in the last year, which is a helpful service to have.

Don Quijote at Särdals Kvarn

We had elevenses at the windmill, and she instantly recognised Don Quijote in the car park. ‘What’s he doing here?’ she asked. I suggested she stop and think about what the good Don usually does, and the penny dropped. (In fairness, my penny took years to drop.)

Went home and I was given my birthday present. We decided this was all right, as she’d not had the official invitation that said presents weren’t allowed. It was a book. Obviously. A new biography of Astrid Lindgren, by Dane Jens Andersen, and it looks very promising indeed.

Jens Andersen, Denna dagen ett liv

Then we fed her leftovers, and she read [my friend] Ingrid Magnusson Rading’s book on the local area, and was most impressed. She enquired about when I last spoke to Meg Rosoff, so I had to own up to having seen her only last week, and went on to show her Bookwitch’s thoughts of it all. The Retired Children’s Librarian is not into computers, so never reads what I write.

I offered her one of our copies of Meg’s I begynnelsen var Bob, but she replied ‘God forbid, no!’ which I suppose was appropriate.

And then she was returned to her hotel. On her request, I hasten to add. She also requested the scenic route via various seasidey places, the best café for coffee and cake, and her old block of flats. Also had a look at where the very young Bookwitch used to live, in the very olden days. A bit overgrown, rather like the witch herself.

Well, we’re here, anyway

Have safely arrived at Holiday Bookwitch Towers, and it is still standing. Every time I have this irrational thought that maybe we shouldn’t buy food on the way, in case the house, and thereby the fridge, has somehow perished while we weren’t looking. But then I tell myself it’s better to have the food, regardless. With or without a house with a fridge.

Our airline wanted us to accept payment not to fly. We said that while we could see why they were asking, we had so many commitments that we really couldn’t agree. I suppose they got someone else to sacrifice themselves.

I spent the flight reading a new book, which I’ll be telling you about soon. I always travel with at least two in my hand luggage, in case one is a dud. This one wasn’t the slightest dud-like.

We drove over The Bridge. Not a corpse in sight, but then I had my eyes closed, which might be why. The Resident IT Consultant asked if I’d never driven across in that direction before, and if I could manage. I pointed out that I was perfectly capable of shutting my eyes in either direction, and that I’d be fine.

Then we stopped and had pizza at Bjärreds Pizzeria. It was lovely! Both the place and the pizza. Just the right blend of Swedish corner/village pizzeria feel. We’d decided we needed to stop for a feed soon after The Bridge, and I had instructed the Resident IT Consultant in advance to search online for a small village just off the motorway; one that was bound to have a traditional takeaway pizza place with a few tables outside.

And when they gave me my change back on paying, they pointed out I was getting one of the lovely new twenties, featuring none other than Astrid Lindgren. So that was pretty topical too. As Son said earlier, it’s a shame Astrid gave the boot to Selma Lagerlöf, but I suppose one token female is all you get on bank notes.

Since the fridge was still operational when we turned up with milk and Turkish yoghurt (I’m investigating how it differs from Greek), all was well.

(And, erm, it’s Mother’s Day. The Resident IT Consultant pointed out I’m not his mother, so I’m guessing there will be no secret walk in the woods to pick lilies of the valley. Or a cake decorated with Turkish yoghurt and strawberries… I don’t really do Mother’s Day, and this way I get to not do it twice; once for each country I’m in.)

Sun on Seacrow Island

I virtually am Tjorven, and summers on Seacrow Island are my past [well, you know], and I can feel the heat and the light in this sun-soaked spot. Because I – and most Swedes – have had summer after summer of this kind of life. It’s what’s natural; it’s what we still strive for, and want to give our children. The difference today is the cost of a house in a place like this. No Melker Melkerson could hope to strike lucky and buy his children’s summer paradise. Not even if he was awarded the ALMA. Well maybe, if he was content with some far flung summer beach a long way from the Stockholm archipelago.

Astrid Lindgren, Vi på Saltkråkan

I watched Seacrow Island on television in real time, being the same age as its main character Tjorven, and I know it back to front, as do Offspring and even the Resident IT Consultant. I only had to mention that the English translation has Pelle put on a windcheater when he gets on the boat with Malin and Krister, for him to burst out that ‘no, he doesn’t.’ (I clearly married the right man.)

It was wonderful finding a chubby seven-year-old as the main character, and despite my summers taking place on the west coast rather than on an island off the east coast, they were much the same. My summer shop was like their summer shop. I bet the smells were the same and we probably ate the same food (hamburger meat is not mince; it’s a sliced sandwich meat, that may or may not have a horsey background) and swatted the same wasps and hoped for ice cream.

For Christmas 1964 I received two copies of the book (which is unusual in that it’s the book of the television series, not vice versa), and I read one of them and loved it almost as much. I mention this mainly because the book might now strike you as too hard for that age group, but it certainly worked back then.

The English translation in this newly re-issued Seacrow Island is the 1960s one by Evelyn Ramsden, and I find it gives the reader the right feel of what it was like. The question, I suppose, is whether that’s what today’s children want. I hope it is. I wish they too could have summers like mine, and that they could watch the television series. But at least the book is available.

Astrid Lindgren, Seacrow Island

The new gorgeous cover should be perfect for attracting adult buyers, lovers of Nordic Noir, who want to give their child a children’s version of what’s so popular right now. Because this does not in any way look like my sun-soaked island, nor does it look like Sweden. Think the Lofoten archipelago in northern Norway, with a somewhat menacing sun shining on a chilly looking set of hills with church-like houses. Also, the ‘real’ Saltkråkan is not as empty of people as the blurb suggests. But hopefully any young reader will simply tuck in and enjoy.

I’m glad Seacrow Island is back in the shops once more, and please put this idyllic, but realistic, holiday book in the hands of a nearby child!

The other prize

Confusingly, there are two Astrid Lindgren literary prizes. Actually, there could be more than that. I only happen to know of two. This is about the smaller, less famous, but older Astrid Lindgren prize.

Mårten Sandén, about whom I’ve written here a few times, has just been awarded this prize, which as he puts it, means he’s now in the company of the children’s authors who inspired him to read when he was a little boy. And I think that’s quite nice.

The prize is for 50,000 kronor, which is just under £5000, and thus rather less than the ALMA, which is five million kronor. That one is a life changing kind of award, or so I imagine, whereas what Mårten has been given is more of a pat on the head, saying ‘well done,’ while also letting the winner join a select group of writers.

I reviewed one of Mårten’s recent books a few weeks ago, despite the fact that it’s not been translated into English yet. I simply felt I had to mention it anyway. And for his nameday almost exactly two years ago, I published his profile on Bookwitch. Never let it be said I don’t appreciate the best.


I can’t believe that Swedish television no longer broadcasts the ceremony at which the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is presented to the winner(s) each year. It used to be such fun to watch. The event still takes place, but you have to be there. I was invited, but Stockholm is a step too far, even from where I am now.


They supposedly provide film clips from the ceremony, but I have never managed to sort the logistics out. So thank goodness for YouTube. Most of the stuff is from when they announced that PRAESA from South Africa had won, but I have found a couple of new interviews done this weekend (or so I believe).

Here is director Carole Bloch talking about their work. Languages are an issue, because they have so many, and not always any books in the languages the children speak.

The second video is with Ntombizanele Mahobe and Malusi Ntoyapi, who work for PRAESA.

It is heartening to learn how much difference they are able to make in children’s lives. I firmly feel that it is better for organisations to receive this mini-Nobel prize for children’s books, than for it to go to individual authors, however deserving.

And ‘English is not the only way to go.’ Remember that.

Dare to be honest?

When asked for the best children’s books, do you a) list the ones you truly loved the best, or b) mention the ones you reckon are expected of you? The ‘proper’ books of childhood.

Last week I was impressed to find I wasn’t totally alone in thinking the new list of 11 best books for under tens, published by the BBC wasn’t one I agreed with. They asked critics, who are supposed know about this. All adults, I imagine.

Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Where the Wild Things Are, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Little Women, The Little Prince, Winnie-the-Pooh, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Wizard of Earthsea, A Wrinkle in Time, Little House on the Prairie.

These are fine books. But how much were they even the favourites when these critics were under ten, and how likely is it that they will continue to please young readers of today? Under ten 25 or 50 years ago is not the same as now. Much as I loved Little Women, I’d give it to an older reader today.

I’m not too keen on Roald Dahl. Never read Narnia, but accept that many have and will continue to do so. I have a feeling I’ve not got round to Charlotte’s Web, either. It’s one of those books that are always mentioned, and so well known that it can be hard to keep track of whether or not you’ve actually read it.

Surely this is primarily a list of the books a group of adults believe they loved the best, or feel are the books they ought to admit to in public? Rather like the castaways on Desert Island Discs, who were always asking for the Bible and Shakespeare, and I suspect, not always because those are the very best books in the world. True, there is a lot to read in both, but the choice feels more to be about what you dare say in public. Brave is the person who’d admit to not being a reader, or one who’d prefer Enid Blyton or Lee Child, to pick a couple of very popular writers.

As a foreigner, I feel I’m allowed not to know all these books from childhood. But if I were to choose my favourites, I feel I would be expected to go for Astrid Lindgren, rather than some unknown or forgotten light fiction (by that I mean there were lots of books I loved to bits, but where I either didn’t note the author’s name, or can’t remember it now). Nothing wrong with Astrid, I hasten to add, but whereas I liked Pippi Longstocking back then, today I’d rather not suggest her, but go for one of the others.

And there is that difference between now and then. What I liked 50 years ago, and what I reckon a little Bookwitch today would enjoy. It’s not the same. These critics would also not all be the same age, so their choices show a top eleven from the mid-20th century onwards.

If Offspring were under ten today, there are about four books on the list I’d give them (wouldn’t prevent them from picking any of the books themselves, of course). If I ever end up with Grand-Offspring, I might offer two of these books, and after that I’d go for much more recent books. There are countless wonderful reads for under tens from the last 25 years.