Children’s literature is BIG in Sweden! Every tenth book published in the nation is a children’s book according to this hugely informative article on the official site of Sweden. And there is no shortage of picture books either: the genre enjoys ‘a prominent and important place in Swedish children’s literature.’
Names such as Astrid Lindgren and Elsa Beskow are well-known outside Sweden, as are Ulf Stark, Sven Nordqvist and Ulf Nilsson. But, there are many more Swedish authors and illustrators waiting to be discovered by English-speaking readers.
Fortunately, there are a few publishers who are dedicated to publishing quality Swedish children’s literature in translation. This excellent 2012 article by Charlotte Berry in Scandinavica focuses on Floris Books, the most prolific publisher of Scandinavian children’s books in the UK. In operation for over 35 years, Floris Books occupies a niche market, favouring a ‘nostalgic, time-gone-by’ product. Astrid Lindgren and Elsa Beskow are two of the authors they publish; you’ll find detailed biographies of both on the Floris Books website, along with a list of books available for purchase in English.
Charlotte Berry’s article also notes two ‘new kids on the Swedish children’s publishing block’ (well, new relatively speaking): Hawthorn Press, also based in the UK, and Gecko Press in New Zealand (a mere hop away from my Aussie home!) Hawthorn Press publish books by Sven Nordqvist, including ten books from the Findus and Pettson series and one standalone picture book, as well as a couple of titles by Ulf Nilsson. I had a quick look down their current author list to see if there were any Swedish additions since Charlotte Berry’s article was published in 2012, but I couldn’t find any.
Gecko Press is a treasure trove of contemporary titles by Swedish authors and illustrators (as well as other children’s titles in translation from around the world): Barbro Lindgren, Eva Lindström, Lena and Olof Landström, Maria Jönsson, Sven Nordqvist, Ulf Nilsson and Ulf Stark . . . have I listed them all?! I was literally spoilt for choice when I browsed the Gecko Press site. So, it came as no great surprise to learn that the publishing house’s founder Julia Marshall has close links with Sweden. In fact, she worked there for 12 years before returning to her native New Zealand to found Gecko Press in 2005. You can read more about her publishing journey in this short interview in Swedish Book Review.
Although many Swedish picture books have yet to be translated into English, there is a fantastic range of titles already available to eager readers. Refreshing to say the least after my struggles to find picture books for certain destinations on this journey! But the element of choice does have its downside too: which titles to feature? I have opted for the following:
Valdemar’s Peas by Maria Jönsson, translated by Julia Marshall (First published in Swedish in 2017 by Lilla Piratförlaget AB; this edition, Gecko Press, 2018).
Where is my Sister? by Sven Nordqvist, translated by Nathan Large (First published in Swedish in 2007 by Bokforlaget Opal AB; this edition, Hawthorn Press, 2011).
My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindström, translated by Julia Marshall (First published in Swedish in 2016 by Lilla Piratförlaget AB; this edition, Gecko Press, 2017).
Reviews, as always, to follow in due course. I hope you enjoy these titles as much as I do![Image: Rum för Barn på Kulturhuset i Stockholm (Room for Children, Kulturhuset, Stockholm) by buskfyb made available under a creative commons licence. Source: flickr.com]