Friday, 12 February 2010

Author Portrait: Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren

My favourite author growing up was without a shadow of a doubt Astrid Lindgren. As I grew up my admiration for her only grew. She was a tireless crusader for children’s rights both in Sweden and across the world. She was a single mother long before that became socially acceptable. She was a writer and an editor. And more than anything I think she was a mother, daughter and sister. She was always close to her family.

“We had two things that made it what it was—safety and freedom” (from Mitt Småland (

Astrid grew up on a farm in Småland in the southern part of Sweden with loving parents and her three siblings. The children lived a happy life on the farm where they played but were also expected to help around the farm. According to Astrid herself her childhood was much like the one she later described in the books about in The Children of Noisy Village.

Sorry the video’s in Swedish, it shows a collection of scenes from the television adaptation of the books about the Children of Noisy Village.

In school Astrid had a teacher who encouraged her to write and often read her stories aloud to her classmates. At the age of thirteen she was published in the local paper, the same paper she worked for after finishing school. It was while working here she found herself pregnant but not married. She decided that she did not want to marry the father but instead moved to Stockholm. She had to leave her young son, Lars, in the care of foster parents and saved her money in order to visit him. While working she met the man who would become her husband, Sture, and when they were married she was able to bring her son home. Her and her husband also had a daughter, Karin. The family, moved to the apartment where Astrid would live the rest of her life, on Dalagatan with a view of Vasaparken.

When she left her home town she trained as a stenographer and worked as a secretary. Once she married Sture she stayed at home with the children, although she took odd jobs as an editor for her former employer and at conferences. When her first book Pippi Longstocking became a success in 1946 she also became the children’s book editor at the publisher Rabén & Sjögren.

As I previously mentioned she was also active in the political debate in the country, first through a tax rate scandal but later primarily regarding corporal punishment, which she was firmly against. Corporal punishment is now forbidden in Sweden, in part thanks to this woman.

The Books

Astrid Lingren was a prolific writer. As I was researching this entry I realised that I have not read all her books, something that I will try to remedy. Because not all of her books have been translated to English I will primarily feature those books that have, but also mention some that haven’t but that I think should!

bara_roligt_i_bullerbyn_ The Children of Noisy Village, Happy Times in Noisy Village and Christmas in Noisy Village tell the story of the six children (actually there are seven but you will need to read the books to get that explanation) who live in Noisy Village (Bullerbyn). I love these books because, like so many of Lindgrens books they show an innocence in childhood that I love. In addition to this it reminds me a bit of my childhood. We lived in a cul-de-sac when I was growing up with several children my age. We all played together during long summers days and walked to school together. There is something magical in the ordinariness in these books.

pippilangstrumt_0 Pippi Longstocking is probably the most famous of Lindgren’s books and her first best seller. It tells the story of Pippi who lives on her own in a large rambly house with her monkey and horse. Pippi’s mother is an angel in heaven and her dad is the Chief of a South Sea Island. Pippi is incredibly strong and has a bag full of gold. She gets up to a lot of mischief with her two friends Tommy and Annika.

ronja_rovardotter Ronia, the Robber's Daughter is about Ronia who lives in a castle with her mum and dad and her dad’s band of robbers. One day she meets the son of her dad’s arch enemy and they become friends. The two of them run away one summer and live in a cave. Ronia is set in a medieval landscape where there are mythical creatures, some dangerous some are funny (I can still quote the rumpnissarna from the movies:D). This is a fantastic story of a strong young girl and her friendships.

broderna_lejonhjarta The Brothers Lionheart this story upset me when I was child. It is the story of Skorpan (who I think has had his name changed in the translation) and his brother Jonathan. Skorpan is sickly and Jonathan is the local hero. Jonathan tells stories to Skorpan while their mother works. One of the stories he tells is of Nangiala, the land one goes to when one dies. One day there is a fire and Jonathan rescues Skorpan but dies in the process (this happens with in the first few pages), a while later Skorpan too dies, but he is reunited with Jonathan in Nangiala and here the real adventure begins. It turns out that all is not well in Nangiala and the brothers get involved in a battle to free the world from a tyrant. It is a magical story of bravery and death and finding bravery within yourself. However, sensitive people should be aware that the book deals with death, something I found difficult as a child.

emil_i_lonneberga There are several books about Emil the mischievous young farm boy. Emil isn’t actually mean he just manages to get into a lot of scrapes and when he gets into these scrapes he gets sent, not to his room, but to the woodshed where he whittles animals until his father has calmed down.


lillebror_och_karlsson_pa_taket Karlson on the Roof imagine that one day a small round man with a propeller shows up at your window. This happens to a young boy in Karlson on the roof. The boy and the little man end up having a series of adventures. Again this a book I grew up with but I have to admit it wasn’t one of my favourite.


lottapabrakmakargatan Lotta on Troublemaker Street Do you have (or have you had, or were you yourself) a small girl with a stubborn streak in your life? If the answer is yes then you will love the books about Lotta on Troublemaker Street. Lotta refuses to give in to the fact that she is not as big as her big sister and big brother and this gets her in to no end of trouble. She also carries with her a stuffed pig. There is a certain amount of spunk to Lotta which I appreciate. This book is going to be a gift for a very special little girl in my life for her next birthday *shhhhh*

The following books are all books that are not yet translated to English but I think they should be.

Madicken Madicken (which I reviewed earlier this week) tells the story of a young girl and her sister. What I particularly like about this book is the lack of magic. It tells the ordinary life of an ordinary girl (just like Emil and The Children of Noisy Village).


masterdetektiven_blomkvist_0 Master Detective Kalle Blomkvist tells the story of two rival groups of friends who spend their summers passing the stone Stormumriken back and forth between each other.  However it is not as simple as that, the groups also manage to be witness or somehow get involved in different crimes in the sleepy town they live in. These are very sweet books. Kalle Blomkvist is referred to in the Millennium Trilogy.

kajsa_kavat_hjalper_mormor Kajsa Kavat when I was about four years old I LOVED this book. I used to have my parents read it to me all the time. It tells the story of Kajsa who lives with her grandmother who sells sweets at the market. One day grandmother breaks her leg. It is just before Christmas and their busiest season. Kajsa takes over the candy stand. The one thing Kajsa wants is a doll in the window of the toy store. I don’t think I was the only one who loved this book since Kajsa is one of the most popular girl names right now.

nils_karlsson_pyssling_flyttar_in Nils Karlsson Pyssling tells the story of a boy the size of a thumb. He lives under Bertil’s (a normally sized boy) bed. Bertil can visit Nils apartment by touching a nail and saying Killevippen.It is a beautiful story of friendship.





This was my first author portrait and I would love your input on it. Was there something you wanted more off? Something you wanted less off? Please comment.

Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North.clip_image001This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

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