Astrid Lindgren’s books have a special place in the heart of most Swedes. As Strömstedt in this book points out the phrases from the books have entered the general vocabulary of most Swedes (373). To use her figures as examples means that everyone will understand the reference. This book explores where these figures come from.
The book is divided into three parts with a post script. The first part tells of Lindgren’s family and childhood. Strömstedt maintains that her childhood was her biggest inspiration for her books, and makes a very compelling case for this. She shows how events in Lindgren’s own childhood, as well as in the life of her parents and grandparents have been incorporated into the different books. The regular, old-fashioned life is one of the things I absolutely adore about one of Lindgren’s series, the one in called “Bullerbyn” in Swedish or “Noisy Village” in English. Although I grew up in a cul-de-sac in a big city I had some similar experiences. And boy did I dream of the exact experiences that Lisa and her friends had. My friends and I often played games that were based on the different adventures in Lindgren’s books (our imaginary horses bore a striking resemblance to those of Mio and Jumjum and there is a game based on that played by Mästerdektektiven Blomkvist). I found it fascinating to read about how Lindgren’s own childhood informed her writing.
The second section in the book deals with Lindgren’s adulthood, when her books were published. Although little of the information in this part was new to me, I loved to read Lindgren’s own comments on events and issues. For example I was gratified to see that she had made a conscious decision to make the teachers in her books nice people. As a teacher myself I am all to aware of the fact that teachers are often portrayed as either not very nice people or as pretty absent characters with little understanding of the children placed in their care. In addition I was glad to see her view on women both through her books and through some writing she had done. Amongst other things she severely criticized the priests in the Diocese of Lindköping when none of them voted to allow female priests. In a rather snarky (yay) letter she pointed out that although Paul had written about women in church we now lived in a completely different world and perhaps we should not listen so much to him.
The third part of the book deals with Lindgren’s old age and her political activism. Lindgren became involved in several political debates during the later years of her life. These debates were primarily concerned with the rights of children and animals (although she is also well known here for a contribution to the debate around taxes). Her work for children’s rights and environmental issues is something for which she continues to be admired for here, as well as something that you can see had a clear connection to her early life where she lived close to nature.
I really enjoyed this book and learning more about one of my favourite authors. I highly recommend this book to others.