I was inspired to look into picture books from Denmark by this post from 2017. It features a list of 10 fabulous titles recommended by the Nordic embassies in London. Three of the books are by Danish authors, Jakob Martin Strid, Lene Kaaberbøl and Bárður Oskarsson (from the Faroe Islands). I held off from further research when I discovered that UK-based Darf Publishers were due to publish all seven of Oskarsson’s books in 2018 and 2019.
‘Danish fairy tales, children’s literature, and poetry are unique in that they rarely shy away from dark themes and tragic endings,’ claims psychotherapist and parenting expert Iben Sandahl. In her fascinating article she emphasises the importance of reading realistic, sometimes sad, tales with children, and talking through difficult issues with them. So it comes as no surprise that the first book she suggests to readers is The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories by Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish master of beautiful, often tragic tales. The prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Awards are a reminder of the enduring popularity of his stories. Presented every two years by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), the awards recognise one living author and one living illustrator whose body of work has made ‘an important, lasting contribution to children’s literature’.
Dark and potentially difficult themes are definitely a feature of two of the titles I have chosen for this leg of our picture book journey. Cry, Heart, But Never Break explores the issue of death through the eyes of four children who live with their ailing grandmother. Vitello Scratches a Car features a mischievous young boy, who runs away from home when he scratches his mum’s new car. No, these are not shy books in any shape or form! My third choice is the delightfully quirky Wilbert.
For those of you that like the finer detail, here you go:
Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, illustrated by Charlotte Pardi, translated by Robert Moulthrop (Enchanted Lion, 2016)
Vitello Scratches a Car by Kim Fupz Aakeson, illustrated by Niels Bo Bojesen, translated from the Danish by Ruth Garde (Pushkin Children’s Books, 2013)
Wilbert by Bárður Oskarsson, translated from the Danish by Marita Thomsen (Darf Publishers, 2018)
I hope you enjoy this selection. Reviews to follow over the next couple of weeks. If you have a favourite picture book title by a Danish author to share, please do!