Yousef Al Muhaimeed about Astrid Lindgren and children’s literature in Sweden

Visit to Astrid Lindgren's childhood home at Näs, Vimmerby. Photo: Sergio Guimaraes, Swedish Institute

Visit to Astrid Lindgren’s childhood home at Näs, Vimmerby. Photo: Sergio Guimaraes, Swedish Institute

1537Saudi Arabian journalist and writer Yousef Al Muhaimeed from Al-Jazirah newspaper where one of the participants in the delegation of international media invited by the Swedish Institute to the press program “Culture for Children”. The program content ranged from visit to the House of Culture and Swedish National Television in Stockholm, to visit Astrid Lindgren’s birthplace Vimmerby in the south of Sweden. Here are extracts from his articles, translated from Arabic:

Sweden and the Swedes are proud of their great writer of children’s books; Astrid Lindgren. Astrid Lindgren died in 2002. To honour her memory, the Swedish government founded an international award in her name, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

The award is 5 million SEK, making it the largest international children’s literature award in the world. It has been awarded to writers of different countries of the world over the past twelve years, without going to any Swedish writer, making it the subject of criticism by the Swedes. They wondered how we have been giving this award that bears the name of Astrid Lindgren to so many writers, without awarding a single Swedish writer, despite the fact that children’s literature in Sweden is booming a host of wonderful writers.

This year, things were different; the award went to Swedish children’s writer Barbro Lindgren. I was among four foreign journalists, lucky enough to interview the winner Barbro Lindgren a few hours before the ceremony.

Barbro is a simple, modest lady of seventy, with a great sense of humor. She does not follow a routine with a specific time to write, she says that she goes to write whenever she feels ready but she usually writes on a daily basis…

The best thing about Sweden, the third largest European country, and the least populous, around 9.5 million people on its territory, at a rate of 23 people per square kilometer, is the great interest in children’s literature. This might cause frustration when we compare it to Arab countries in general and to Saudi Arabia in particular.  My country has the human competencies and financial resources to accomplish great projects for children and young people, especially as 60% of our total population is children and young people.

Photo: Sergio Guimaraes, Swedish Institute

Photo: Sergio Guimaraes, Swedish Institute

It is striking that the public libraries of children in Sweden do not contain only paper and electronic books as we might assume in the Arab world. It is an amazing world, where the child, of any age category, might spend a full day without getting bored. In this library, for example, there are several sections for various age groups, from zero to two years, three to six years, seven to nine years, and ten to thirteen years. Each section is designed taking into account the different conditions and needs of children; safety, interests .. etc.  You might see a toddler, accompanied by his father or his mother, crawling around the painted books, just to be familiar with books from early childhood.

All kinds of activities; playing, painting and story-telling are being practiced in the library; the children’s second home !

Astrid Lindgren grew up in a typical Swedish small house at a tiny village called Vimmerby, three hundred and fifty kilometers south of Stockholm. The Swedish Government made the house where Astrid was born a museum open to visitors all the year round. “Astrid Lindgren’s World” includes the author’s childhood home as well as a recently-built exhibition hall. Astrid Lindgren´s World is a unique theatre-park. Here you can meet Pippi, Emil, and all the other characters. It’s Sweden’s largest children’s theatre-park, all based on Astrid Lindgren’s texts. About half a million tourists visit Astrid Lindgren’s World every year. Even though, it might not be compared to the American Disney Land, but it has a unique flavor of Sweden, which is far much better than reproducing the culture of others and imitating their ideas.

Visiting Astrid Lindgren's World in Vimmerby. Photo: Sergio Guimaraes, Swedish Institute

Visiting Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby. Photo: Sergio Guimaraes, Swedish Institute


Photo: Sergio Guimaraes, Swedish Institute

Photo: Sergio Guimaraes, Swedish Institute

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