Astrid Lindgren’s response to Barbro Lindgren

April 11, 2014

Barbro Lindgren started to write at an early age. In the 1960s she sent her debut manuscript to publishing house Rabén & Sjögren, who’s editor responded with quite a long letter. The editor in question was no other than Astrid Lindgren, who worked as a publishing editor for almost 25 years. In Barbro’s own words, she learned from this letter the most important things about writing for children. The letter was written on 20th December 1964 and is published on astridlindgren.se/en.

Dear Barbro Lindgren,

Mats is a nice little kid and easy to like. That goes for the author as well, who knows so much about children. But she doesn’t know quite as much about how to build up and maintain the interest in a manuscript. The same problem has been the failing of many other manuscripts – the author makes it too easy for herself and jumps from one episode to the next without getting the most out of any of them. All too many do it that way because it’s an easy way to write books.

But in your case, one gets the feeling that if you were to really put some effort into it, you could rework the book and deliver something with the right kind of appeal. How that is to be done, yes, I wish I could explain what I mean, so you’d believe me! I can only give you a few guidelines. First of all, not so many episodes and not so many characters that you barely get a sniff at. Each chapter ought to be more or less a free-standing novel with a solid core to it. Pretend that you have been given an assignment of writing a full and detailed account of how Mats once ran away to his grandmother, or so he thought… That would turn into the type of novel I’m talking about. The same thing with when Lill-Fia was going to be sold. Pretend that your task is to write about that – and only that – continuing until you feel the tension has been building up in the right way and that it holds you till the end. Then you will have another fine novel which becomes a chapter in the book about Mats.

I suggest you scrap the chapter called, “At the theatre” because it would only amuse grown-up people who know what theatre is. But since you are writing for children, you must refrain from using the type of humour which only adults can understand. Surround Mats with a little group of characters who make us feel we know them all, just as well as he does. Lillpelle, Limpan and a couple more would suffice. Uncle Jensen or Mr and Mrs Linder and Klas-Herman – to name just a few – leave us cold, because we are never really given a chance to get to know them.

If I were you, I would never let Mats run away to grandma and grandpa in this book. I would rather let him plod around in his home surroundings at Vanadisvägen in the company of Lillpelle and Limpan. He doesn’t have to have any remarkable experiences, but what he does experience has to be built up properly.

You wriggle out of the difficulty by suddenly transferring Mats to a different environment and you fill out the pages with dialogue – which is highly delightful and amusing sometimes, but other times seems just to be there to fill up the page, so you can move on to the next chapter. Well, these are just some ideas.

Have you noticed that we have a competition going on at the moment? Why don’t you write six, seven or eight novels – little pearls about Mats – and enter the manuscript in our competition! One more example: The baby bird. There, you take a hop, skip and a jump over something that could have become a splendidly exciting little story. Couldn’t he, together with Limpan, find the bird in Vanadislunden instead of out in the country in the company of the heartily uninspiring Klas-Herman? ….or what do you say?

I hope I haven’t robbed you of all your courage now, because that was not my intention. Perhaps I will get to see your manuscript again.
I hope so.

With kind regards
Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren

 

Barbro Lindgren at the age of 15. From her book Bladen brinner (Pages on fire, 1971-73, ill. Olof Landström/ Barbro Lindgren), published by publising house Karneval.

Barbro Lindgren at the age of 15. From her book Bladen brinner (Pages on fire, 1971-73, ill. Olof Landström/ Barbro Lindgren), published by publishing house Karneval.

Barbro Lindgren’s first children’s book, Mattias sommar (Mattias’ Summer), appeared in 1965. She illustrated it herself.

Visiting Barbro Lindgren on Öland

April 8, 2014

We sent our photographer Stefan Tell to take a few images of Barbro Lindgren at her home on the beautiful island Öland.

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Barbro Lindgren to Vimmerby, Stockholm and Umeå

April 7, 2014

Barbro Lindgren to Vimmerby, Stockholm and Umeå

The award week for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) begins on May 25. During a week this year’s laureate, the Swedish author Barbro Lindgren, will participate in a tailored program to meet with the public, press and reading promoters. The program includes two intensive days in Vimmerby and meetings in Stockholm and Umeå.

– We hope that as many people as possible can take part in this year’s award week, says Director Helen Sigeland. We are particularly happy that this year’s award week includes Umeå, the 2014 European Capital of Culture. Barbro Lindgren will visit Café Pilgatan in Umeå, which is known for it´s reading promotion activities.

On March 25 it was announced that Barbro Lindgren is the first Swedish laureate ever,. She is one of Sweden’s most beloved authors with innovative and multifaceted works for children of all ages. Her production includes picture books, poetry, plays and books for children and young adults.

The program includes:

May 25   Visit to Astrid Lindgren’s Näs in Vimmerby

May 26   Visit to Astrid Lindgren’s childhood home Näs

May 27   Visit to the Astrid Lindgren School in Vimmerby, meeting with participants at the Astrid Lindgren Conference

May 28   Meeting with children at Kulturhuset (House of Culture) in Stockholm

May 28   Public conversation with a member of the ALMA-jury at Kulturhuset

May 31   Program at Café Pilgatan in Umeå

June 2  Award Ceremony, Stockholm Concert Hall

 

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) is the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature. The award, which amounts to SEK 5 million, is given annually to a single laureate or to several. Authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters are eligible. The award is designed to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature. The UN convention of rights of the child is the foundation of our work. An expert jury selects the laureate(s) from candidates nominated by institutions and organisations all over the world. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was founded by the Swedish government in 2002 and is administrated by the Swedish Arts Council.

Adult Power and the Child Perspective

April 5, 2014

What is the cultural life of children and young people like today? Who makes the choices, who creates – and who finds themselves on the outside, looking in? On April 3-4, a conference on children’s culture in Umeå, organized by the Swedish Arts Council, addressed these questions. Karin Helander, professor of drama and head of the Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture at Stockholm University, spoke on adult power and the child perspective:

Karin Helander

Karin Helander

Typically, we define children by what they are not: they are not adults. For the past twenty years, childhood researchers have looked at both children and adults using the concepts of “human becoming” and “human being.” Initially, they saw adults as “beings”: complete, finished people and citizens. Children were “becomings”: people and citizens in the making, moving toward completion; a development zone, lacking some critical element.

In the 1990s, this view changed. Children became “beings” too – citizens and people in their own right, with their own skills and abilities. Later, the picture was refined again. Children and adults were now both “beings” and “becomings”—competent, but still developing, citizens. Adulthood, just like childhood, was not static but variable.

Childhood researchers have stressed the fact that power, resources and decisions lie in the hands of adults. The professional production of culture and art is a prime example. Here, power resides almost entirely in the adult world. The grown-ups are in charge—we decide what gets produced and what gets consumed. Of course we often do so with the best of intentions, following our own ideas about children’s wellbeing.

The concept of a child perspective is frequently invoked; less frequently is it defined or problematized. In the field of children’s culture, we often make a distinction between a child perspective and a child’s perspective. A child perspective is an adult intention to focus on and draw attention to children’s circumstances. A child’s perspective involves trying to capture children’s experiences and perceptions, by recognizing them as valuable informants and listening to their voices.

The concept of the child perspective is also the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the articles there that address the welfare of children and their right to access culture and the arts, as well as their right to freedom of expression and to be heard on issues that affect them, according to age and maturity.

The meaning of children’s culture itself is also continually being discussed and redefined. According to one common definition, it includes:

- cultural products made by adults for children (children’s literature, children’s film)

- culture with children (an example is Swedish municipal schools for music and arts, kulturskolor)

- children’s culture, or culture by children (such as children’s play and children’s picture making)

The boundaries here are fluid and we could identify further distinctions or places where the categories overlap. In general, however, children’s culture is strongly colored by the adult world: adults’ interpretative prerogative, their values and norms. Professionally produced culture for children originates with adults and carries their intentions: its purpose is often educative, and/or it intends to entertain and amuse, and/or it is designed as a high-quality artistic statement. We might also expand children’s culture to include young adult art and literature, also produced by adults, which children readily partake of.

Author Ulf Stark has raised the issue of quality in children’s literature, asking questions like:

- Do you have to be extra good to be a good children’s author?

- Should a children’s book make children happy and content – and get them to sleep at night as fast as possible?

- Is reading a literary text different from other reading?

- Is it a good idea to mark books so we can see from the outside whether they’re easy or hard?

- Do we really understand what “understanding” means?

- If children read bad books, is that a good thing?

- Demanding less, leveling out the language – a nifty prescription for improving reading skills? Or perhaps not? Or is it?

Stark also questions the notion of reading comprehension, that we need to understand what we read: “Some of the poems that have meant the most to me, I’ve never really understood. I don’t even always understand what I write myself. Requiring us to understand things makes us seize up. Reading is embracing the unknown.”

And here I would like to add a quotation from another author, though she usually writes for adults: Kristina Lugn, whose character Axel concludes the play Hjälp sökes (Help needed) with these words: “In my opinion, understanding is for weaklings. People have always been, and should remain, a mystery.”

Videos from the announcement on YouTube

April 3, 2014

 

Students working with books by ALMA laureates

April 1, 2014
Children’s make their own stories inspired by 2010 ALMA laureate Kitty Crower’s “The Visit of Little Death”.

Children make their own stories inspired by 2010 ALMA laureate Kitty Crowther’s “The Visit of Little Death”.

This week we asked representatives from two public schools working with our laureates to write a few lines about their work:

Two public schools in Stockholm, -Hjulsta Elementary School and Östra Real High School – have started a project on the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, ALMA. The website www.världensalma.se is our forum for presenting the wide variety of ideas, goals and achievements we have.

Both schools constantly focus on language and literacy which this spring semester revolves mainly around ALMA. We study Astrid Lindgren and her authorship as well as the ALMA laureates. Students and mentors read, discuss and write together, inspired by the brilliant authors and illustrators.

”One day I found a duck on our street.” “I´m playing basketball with the duck.” A boy draws his own story inspired by 2013 ALMA laureate Isol’s book “It’s useful to have a duck.”

”One day I found a duck on our street.” “I´m playing basketball with the duck.” A student draws his own story inspired by 2013 ALMA laureate Isol’s book “It’s useful to have a duck.”

Is it possible for young children, adolescents and even adults to benefit from exploring the same books? We believe so, especially when a book is filled with so much beauty and various meanings as for example Shaun Tan´s ”The Red Tree”, one of many books chosen in different grades. At an evening occasion some of the staff at Hjulsta Elementary School gathered to interpret Kitty Crowthers works which resulted in quite vivid discussions. Pupils of all ages are thrilled with Isol´s ”It´s useful to have a duck”, spurring them to create similar books of their own.

All around Sweden there is an ongoing and intense progress of developing education in reading comprehension at all levels in the school system. Many are disappointed by the poor results in international surveys. Swedish students have not achieved as well as in previous years. Teachers from primary schools through university confirm decreasing abilities in literacy.

Besides supplementary training as well as teaching, many mentors participate in discussing and sharing ideas online. We hope that our project on the ALMA prize , published on our website, can be a part of the movement in improving the education tutoring required by Swedish students. By choosing and using ALMA literature we see a possibility to spread the word of these literary riches to other schools. We find the laureates somewhat neglected , not earning the attention they deserve, despite being awarded the world´s second largest literature prize.

Hopefully, our first year with the ALMA project is nothing but a first step towards a new tradition!

Cilla Dalén and Ulrika Lindmarker, Hjulsta grundskola
Katarina Lycken Rüter, Östra Reals gymnasium

2003 ALMA laureate Christine Nöstlinger’s protagonist Mini.

2003 ALMA laureate Christine Nöstlinger’s protagonist Mini.

Bye bye Bologna

March 28, 2014

Today we pack our bags and go back to Stockholm. It´s been (as usual) a fantastic week at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, meeting representatives from the book industry, nominating bodies and, last but not least, announcing this year’s laureate Barbro Lindgren. Here are some images taken by the Pasquale Minopoli, photographer at the fair.

Speech by Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth on a streamed link from Stockholm.

Speech by Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth on a streamed link from Stockholm.

Jury Chairman Larry Lempert announcing the 2014 laureate...

Jury Chairman Larry Lempert announcing the 2014 laureate…

...author Barbro Lindgren from Sweden. Jury member Mats Berggren presents Barbaro Lindgren's works.

…author Barbro Lindgren from Sweden. Jury member Mats Berggren presents Barbro Lindgren’s works.

A happy publishing director, Ann Sköld Nilsson from publishing house Rabén & Sjögren.

A happy publishing director, Ann Sköld Nilsson from publishing house Rabén & Sjögren.

Presentations on Barbro Lindgren in media and IRL

March 26, 2014

Tomorrow jury member Mats Kempe presents the new ALMA laureate Barbro Lindgren at the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books.

Venue: Swedish Institute for Children’s Books, Odengatan 61
Time: 6:00 pm
Admission free. Limited seating.

Link to Swedish Institute for Children’s Books here

Furthermore, given that Barbro Lindgren was awarded the ALMA yesterday, Swedish national television have decided to broadcast the documentary “At last Monday – a film about Barbro Lindgren” (in Swedish) (Äntligen måndag – en film om Barbro Lindgren”). The film was produced by culture program K-special two years ago.

Link to program here.

Also, a report from Radio Sweden from yesterday! Link here.

sr barbro

What a day!

March 25, 2014

Announcing a new ALMA laureate is not something that´s possible without the assistance from a lot of professional colleagues and co-workers both here in Stockholm and in Bologna. To all of you – our warmest thanks. Here are some lovely images from today’s event at the National Library.

National Library of Sweden. Photo: Stefan Tell

National Library of Sweden. Photo: Stefan Tell.

 

Larry Lempert, jurychairman, announces the new laureate! Photo: Stefan Tell

Larry Lempert, jury Chairman, announces the new laureate! Photo: Stefan Tell

The reaction from the audience. From the right: national librarian Gunilla Herdenberg, Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth and chairman of the Swedish Arts Council Kerstin Brunnberg. Photo: Stefan Tell

The reactions from the audience, author Barbro Lindgren to receive the ALMA 2014! From the right: National librarian Gunilla Herdenberg, Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth and Chairman of the Swedish Arts Council Kerstin Brunnberg. Photo: Stefan Tell

Jury member Annika Edlund gives a presentation of the laureate. Photo: Stefan Tell

Jury member Annika Edlund gives a presentation of the laureate. Photo: Stefan Tell

Interviews with media. Photo: Stefan Tell.

Interviews with media. Photo: Stefan Tell.

Live webcast. Expressen journalist Gunilla Brodrej in the auditorium. Photo: Stefan Tell

Live webcast. Expressen journalist Gunilla Brodrej in the auditorium. Photo: Stefan Tell

Barbro Lindgren to receive Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2014

March 25, 2014

Barbro Lindgren, born in 1937, is a Swedish author of innovative and multifaceted works for children of all ages. Her body of work includes picture books, poetry, plays, and books for young adults. Since her debut as an author in 1965, she has published over a hundred titles, and her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. The Jury’s Citation reads:
Barbro Lindgren is a literary pioneer. Using adventurous language and rich psychological nuance, she has re-invented not only the picture book for the very young but also the absurd prose story, the existential children’s poem, and realistic fiction for young adults. With perfect pitch, she presents to us both playful shenanigans and moments of bright joy, and the inscrutable nature of life and the nearness of death.

Barbro Lindgren’s stories are often humorous and always possess a uniquely warm tone of voice that speaks directly to the child, whether she is offering amusing escapades or more serious reflections. She has a singular capacity to remember and convey what it was like to be a child, and her seemingly simple style recreates atmospheres and moods that resonate with all her readers, regardless of their age.

Barbro Lindgren has an education in the arts and illustrated several of her own books, including her first book, Mattias sommar (Mattias’ summer, 1965), and the absurd tale of Loranga, Masarin och Dartanjang (1969), about a world where anything can happen. Sagan om den lilla farbrorn (The Story of the Little Old Man, 1979) marked the beginning of a long-lived co-operation with the illustrator Eva Eriksson. Their greatest success came with their series of picture books about little Max and the everyday adventures in the life of a small child. Meanwhile, in Mamman och den vilda bebin (The Wild Baby, 1980) a baby has adventures that are anything but ordinary.

More realistic works include the autobiographical series of books in diary form, Jättehemligt, Världshemligt and Bladen brinner (Big Secret, Top secret, Pages on fire, 1971-73). Here, the author portrays a young girl’s encounter with love and her existen-tial reflections about life. Death seems always close at hand, a theme we see again in the series about Sparvel (1976-79), which depicts the author’s life from age four until she starts school. Reflections on the meaning of life also appear in the fiercely original chapter books Vems lilla mössa flyger (Whose little hat is flying, 1987), Korken flyger (The cork is flying, 1990), and Vad lever man för (What-Are-We-Living-For, 2006), where worn-out stuffed animals are among the unusual cast of characters. Here, Barbro Lindgren finds humor even in a funeral, and refilling the stuffing of a toy elephant can bring it back from the dead.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) will be presented in a ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall on June 2, 2014.

More information
Helene Andersson, Communication Officer
Phone: +46 (0)76 540 10 17
E-mail: helene.andersson@alma.se

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) is the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature. The award, which amounts to SEK 5 million, is given annually to a single laureate or to several. Authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters are eligible. The award is designed to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature. The UN convention of rights of the child is the foundation of our work. An expert jury selects the laureate(s) from candidates nominated by institutions and organisations all over the world. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was founded by the Swedish government in 2002 and is administrated by the Swedish Arts Council.


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