Archive for the ‘2014 award week’ Category

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

June 18, 2014
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

Standing ovations and brilliant performances

June 3, 2014
Barbro Lindgren and Crown Princess Victoria.

Barbro Lindgren and Crown Princess Victoria.

Yesterday was really a magic night to remember. The audience at the Stockholm Concert Hall gave Barbro Lindgren standing ovations after her acceptance speech. The evening started with Edda Magnason and her band playing I Can´t Give You Anything But Love. Actor Lamine Dieng was the compere for the evening and lead the program forward with a steady hand. The rest of the programme? Well, have a look at these beautiful images, taken by photographer Stefan Tell:

Edda Magnason and her band.

Edda Magnason and her band.

Welcome address by Staffan Forssell, General Director at the Swedish Arts Council.

Welcome address by Staffan Forssell, Director General at the Swedish Arts Council.

The Lindgren Brothers with Amanda Bergman.

The Lindgren Brothers with Amanda Bergman.

Minister for Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth.

Minister for Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth.

The Lindgren Brothers with Ebbot Lundberg.

The Lindgren Brothers with Ebbot Lundberg.

Jury Chairman Larry Lempert Reading the jury citation.

Jury Chairman Larry Lempert reading the jury citation.

Award Ceremony.

Award Ceremony.

Barbro Lindgren's speech.

Barbro Lindgren’s speech.

Photo moment after the ceremony.

Photo moment after the ceremony.

Barbro Lindgren and Tomas Tranströmer.

Barbro Lindgren and Tomas Tranströmer.

A toast for Barbro Lindgren at the Grünewald Hall.

A toast for Barbro Lindgren at the Grünewald Hall.

Time to leave the Consert Hall.

Time to leave the Concert Hall.


“I am also very happy to have heard from so many people saying that they are happy for me…”

June 3, 2014


Photo: Stefan Tell

Photo: Stefan Tell

Barbro Lindgren’s speech at the Award ceremony yesterday:

First of all, I would like to say thank you very much for the lovely award, which is especially fun to receive because it was established in memory of Astrid Lindgren! I am also very happy to have heard from so many people saying that they are happy for me, because it must be fairly common for people to get cross when someone else gets an award, and feel like it’s unfair. Standing here and looking out at everyone who is here now, I almost feel like a matchmaking service, because I’ve written about so many of you, and you in turn have friends and family who have read the books – not to mention everyone who has illustrated the books and dramatized them, or worked on them in other ways.

It is a marvelous feeling to know that everyone here is connected in some way, to me and to each other.

Of course Astrid is a big part of why I finally became a writer. It’s true that I started writing very early on, but even I could see then that my writing wasn’t very good. So I started to paint and draw more instead. I got good at that a little faster, so after secondary school I went to Konstfack to study art. After I graduated from Konstfack, though, I couldn’t help feeling it was a bit of a shame that nothing had ever come of my writing. So I wrote a few chapters about my childhood, although I changed the main character to a little boy. I couldn’t bring myself to write a whole book; I thought there was no point, since it might just get turned down anyway. I sent what I had written to Astrid. At that time she ran the children’s division at the publishing house of Rabén & Sjögren. I knew that, because many years earlier I had sent them a few little stories, one of which bore a suspicious resemblance to Bambi. Those got returned, of course, with some encouraging words from Astrid. She wrote that all authors have their first manuscripts refused, and it was no reason to get discouraged! And indeed I didn’t. I thought just getting a letter was fantastic. And this letter was from Astrid, and it had wax seals! That letter is not the one I want to talk about, though. I want to talk about the letter I got after I wrote those few chapters about my childhood. Astrid wrote back to me with a long reply, in which she went into great detail about how you actually write a book. One thing she said was that I shouldn’t have so many main characters. Two or three was plenty.

“Also, don’t have so awfully many things happen! Take out the jokes that are only funny to grownups and take out that heartily uninteresting Klas-Herman! Then write 7 or 8 finished small stories and send everything to me.”

And for the first time in my life I pulled myself together and did what she said. So you might say that her letter became my university. I sat that summer in the Haga Park in Stockholm and wrote. I was expecting my first baby and I had plenty of free time. If it was a boy, we thought we would name him Mathias, so I named my main character Mathias too. Astrid accepted what I had written and she asked if I wanted to illustrate the book too. I did. And I drew Mathias the way I hoped he would look–like his father–assuming he turned out to be a boy, that is. And then when he came out, he looked just the way I had drawn him! That was my first book, Mattias’ summer, and after it was published, I worked with one brilliant artist after another, and a large part of this award belongs to them, especially since some of the books hardly have any words at all…Besides Eva Eriksson, whom I worked with the most, there were Olof Landström, Charlotte Ramel, Anna-Clara Tidholm, Madeleine Pyk, Pija Lindenbaum, Magnus Bard, Cecilia Torudd, Anna Höglund, my sister Katti Olausson Säll, Dan Johnsson, Fibben Hald, Sven Nordqvist, Gunna Grähs, Eva Lindström and Camilla Engman. Thank you all for wanting to work with me!

Everyone at the publishing house kept on encouraging me. When Astrid left, Marianne Eriksson took over – she had gotten quite a thorough training by that point and was already an expert on children’s books! Eventually we started the publishing firm of Eriksson & Lindgren together, though if truth be told, Marianne did all the work.

This business of the money is nice, too! Although Astrid would have thought it was far too much for one person – and indeed it is! Anyone might think so, even if you’re not from Småland like she was, where everyone is so thrifty! But Astrid knows me – she knows I’ll share it. That’s the most fun thing you can do with money, you know.

Pippi Longstocking was published when I was in elementary school. All my schoolmates were captivated by it. They talked about it all the time. But I thought the title was so ridiculous that I decided not to read it! So I didn’t read it until I was a grownup, and I was surprised at how good it was!

Since we have a real princess here with us today, I have to tell you that when I was a child, I collected royal people. I clipped them out of the papers and pasted them into a notebook. My very best ones, of course, were the family at the Haga Palace – all the little princesses, and their brother, Victoria’s father, Carl Gustaf. He was such a cutie! But I thought Princess Sibylla was the most beautiful of all and I collected her pictures the most, especially when she wore her black veil after Gustaf Adolf died. When Gustaf V turned 92, I decided to call on him and give him a present: a portrait and a poem. I talked my friend Birgitta into coming with me, and we rode our bicycles out to Drottningholm.

Chamberlain Bengtsson greeted us at the palace. I recognized him from the press coverage of the royal family, and I handed my present over to him. The King himself was resting, unfortunately, and couldn’t receive guests, but we did get to see the door to the room where he was lying down. Just the idea that there was a king behind that door was such a heady thought! What I do sometimes regret is that I don’t have that portrait of the King anymore.

I had copied a picture in Vecko-Journalen, the weekly magazine, where he was sitting bent over his writing desk. And I believe that in my picture he must have looked exactly like a little monkey, because when my grandmother caught a glimpse of it before it went into the envelope, she went into a fit of laughter, and she couldn’t explain what was so funny. I, however, thought it was a striking likeness.

Before we left Drottningholm, a press photographer came up and wanted to take our picture, so I had to hand the envelope to Bengtsson again. Then we biked home. The poem went like this:

Night is edging toward day

the sun is on the rise.

The birds are trilling

wonderfully still

and clear?

We’ll hear the steady beat

of footsteps soon.

Day is drawing near.

The sledge strikes true

the farmer sows new.

Today the King

will be 92!


I thought I would finish my little speech by telling you about a time I visited Astrid. It was on her name day, November 27, 1997. She was talking about the days when her children were still small. Lasse was probably about eight years old and Karin was still tiny. Astrid was carrying her through the apartment on Vulcanusgatan where they lived at the time.

“My little Karin,” she said.

Then she remembered Lasse, who was in the bathroom with the door half open. She put Karin in her bed, went back, opened the door to the bathroom a little and said:

“My little Lasse.”

“He lit up. He said, ‘I heard what you said, and I thought, why doesn’t she call me her little Lasse?’ And then he kissed me on the hand and said, ‘You are so good.’”

Which is exactly what she was.

Full House for Barbro Lindgren in Stockholm’s Concert Hall

June 2, 2014
Photo: Stefan Tell

Photo: Stefan Tell

Author Barbro Lindgren accepted the 2014 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award on Monday evening before a crowded audience in the Stockholm Concert Hall. H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria presented the award, and Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth hailed Lindgren for her literary achievements:

– Barbro Lindgren is a brave and innovative author. She gives her readers courage and is not afraid to describe the world as it really is. Loneliness, setbacks, and even death are all part of life. Lindgren does not try to protect children; instead, her honesty, humor and openness strengthen children to think and talk about difficult things for themselves.

– I am very happy to have heard from so many people saying that they are happy for me, because it must be fairly common for people to get cross and feel it’s unfair when someone else gets an award, Barbro Lindgren said in her acceptance speech.

She also spoke of Astrid Lindgren’s importance for her career. Astrid Lindgren had headed the children’s books division at Rabén & Sjögren, where Barbro Lindgren sent her early manuscripts:

– Astrid wrote back to me with a long reply, in which she went into great detail about how you actually write a book. One thing she said was that I shouldn’t have so many main characters. Two or three was plenty.

Barbro Lindgren’s sons, Mathias and Andreas, together the award-winning songwriting duo Bröderna Lindgren, took the stage to perform Superhjälten (The Superhero) with Amanda Bergman and En flugas väg (The fly’s progress) with Ebbot Lundberg. Edda Magnason and band performed material from Magnason’s upcoming album and a song from the film Monica Z. Actor Lamine Dieng was master of ceremonies.

Barbro Lindgren on a 24-hour visit to Umeå

June 1, 2014
Photo: Hans Millgård

Photo: Hans Millgård

For the first time an ALMA laureate visited Umeå this week. Umeå is one of the Cultural Cities of Europe this year and Barbro Lindgren and the city gave Barbro Lindgren a very warm welcome. The Programme included a philosophical conversation with the local song writer Frida Selander at Café Stationen, Barbro Lindgren once again told her audience that she does not consider herself having a lot of fantasy but is quite good at recycling events happening around her. Annika Edlund, jury member and one of the initiators of Café Pilgatan introduced the guests. The queue was long for an autograph and a private chat with the laureate.

Photo: Hans Millgård

Photo: Hans Millgård

Annika arranged a well visited breakfast meeting with Barbro at Café Pilgatan the following morning. Among the guests was “the Kitty-Club” a group of ladies who for years have met reading and discussing books. After a chat with Barbro Lindgren they went for lunch discussing their book of the month, Big Secret.

Photo: Hans Millgård

Photo: Hans Millgård

Photo shoot at Skeppsholmen in Stockholm

May 29, 2014

This morning we had arranged a photoshoot with Barbro Lindgren at beautiful Skeppsholmen in Stockholm. The weather gods where with us, and here´s a few samples of the result of Stefan Tells work:






Events at House of Culture in Stockholm

May 29, 2014

Yesterday, the fourth day of the award week, Barbro Lindgren had two performances at Kulturhuset (House of Culture) in Stockholm. Photographer Stefan Tell followed her closely and took some brilliant images:

First, Barbro met five school classes (children aged 7 to 11) in Kulturhuset’s Studio.
The Lindgren brothers opened the meeting on stage, and the feeling was more like a rock concert rather than a lesson in literature.


Katti Hoflin, Head of Dunkers Kulturhus, lead the conversation with Barbro, who among other things gave the students a few inside tips if they were planning to become writers. Then the children had prepared questions for her, like Did you really know Astrid Lindgren? Why do you write about death so often? What´s your favorite color? Do you like yourself? How did you become so famous?

During the afternoon Barbro was a guest in the Swedish TV-show “Babel” along with Neil Gaiman (which will be broadcasted on Swedish National TV, SVT2 on Sunday 8:00 pm!).


And then followed a public conversation at Kulturhuset, where Barbro talked to author, librarian and ALMA jury member Mats Kempe. Georg and Sarah Riedel played Barbro Lindgren texts set to music by Georg.





Visiting Astrid Lindgren’s childhood home

May 27, 2014
On the stairs of Astrid Lindgren's childhood home. Photo: Sabina Sakari

On the stairs of Astrid Lindgren’s childhood home. Barbro Lindgren and her dog Mimmi. Photo: Sabina Sakari

Monday was a busy day for Barbro Lindgren in Vimmerby, interviews by national and local media and a visit to Astrid Lindgren’s Näs. She also met with Astrid Lindgren’s relatives and had lunch in her childhood home. The garden inspired Astrid Lindgren to many stories and the lemonade tree is today a tourist attraction.
A photograph taken by the “wall of fame” with previous laureates at Näs was of course a must.

All photos are taken by Sabina Sakari.

Children and books at Skansen

May 26, 2014
Photo: Stefan Tell

Photo: Stefan Tell

The programme for Barn och böcker (“Children and books”) at outdoor museum Skansen kicked off today with a ceremony at the Solliden stage, awarding the winning classes that took part in the competition En bok i världsklass (“A world of books”). ALMA jury Chairman Larry Lempert took part in the ceremony by handing a book signed by Barbro Lindgren to every prize-winning class. Read more about the competition here. The winning contributions to the competition are on display until Wednesday at Bragehallen, which also houses an exhibition on the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Awad and the 2014 laureate, Barbro Lindgren.



“I have no fantasy…”

May 26, 2014

“… I only steal from the reality”, Barbro Lindgren said in an interview with Lena Kjersén Edman at Astrid Lindgren’s Näs on the first day of the award week. On the program today, a visit to Astrid Lindgren’s childhood home and interviews with press. The photos are taken by Sabina Sakari.