Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Last Chance for Scandi-Giveaway

Yesterday I spent a quiet afternoon out on my patio doing some bloggie "investigative research" -- perusing D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths in between reading chapters of The Brothers Lionheart.

Reading Norse Mythology is giving me some good insight into the strong influence Scandinavian folklore culture has had on the imaginations of creative writers like Hans Christian Andersen, Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson (to say nothing of J.R.R. Tolkien - who isn't even Scandinavian!)

Gnomes, dragons, trolls, feasts, gods and godesses, darkness and light.

Take for example, Astrid Lindgren's picture book The Tomten: The setting is a quiet farmstead, deep in the forest...
Here is a lonely old farm, where everyone is sleeping. All but one... 
a little gnome-like creature from Swedish folklore, a "Tomten" who guards the farm. No one has ever seen him, but sometimes his little footprints are visible in the snow. He checks on all the barnyard animals and talks to them in Tomten language (a silent little language only they can understand). He tiptoes to the house and peeks in on the sleeping children before going back to his cozy corner of the hayloft, where he dreams of the coming of summer.  

Or how about Lindgren's haunting story The Brothers Lionheart -- and her mythical land of Nangiyala, a place from "the days of camp fires and sagas"...
In Nangiyala you have adventures from morning till evening. 
That's what courageous Jonathan Lionheart tells his sick younger brother, Karl.  When both boys tragically die and are united in this "land beyond the stars", their adventures do begin. Together with a resistance group they go on a quest to lead the struggle against the evil Tengil, a black knight who rules the land with the aid of a fearsome fire-breathing dragon, Katla. (This is an engrossing, but sad book. Disclosure:  the brothers die again at the end.  For a full summary of the book, check out Read Aloud Dad's excellent review, here. I would recommend this book for kids no younger than 8 years old - but as always, use your discretion.)

I have to think Hans Christian Andersen was influenced by Norse Mythology when he penned The Snow Queen (and when C.S. Lewis thought up his White Witch) -- read the description of a beautiful maiden with an ice cold heart from the Book of Norse Myths by Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire...
As she lifted her snow-white arms to push open the door to the hall, a strange radiance spread from them and lit up the gloom of Jotunheim...
He knew that the maiden he loved was Gymir's daughter Gerd and that he had no hope of ever winning her, for her heart was as cold as a seed in frozen ground.
(Luckily, in the Norse Mythology version her frozen heart melts.)

If you missed my post about Tove Jansson's Moomins, go here.  Unlike trolls and other monsters of dark Norse Mythology tales, Moomins are happy and kind of cute.  But similar to Norse Mythology, there are lots of magical adventures.  I have to say, I thought of the Snork Maiden losing her fringe of hair when I read the D'Aulaires' retelling of "Sif's Golden Hair".  Sif was Thor's wife.  After her beautiful hair is chopped off in the middle of the night by Loki, he promises to have the gnomes forge new hair for her - out of real gold!
Here's what happened with the Snork Maiden, who wasn't so lucky...
Moomintroll bent down to wake the Snork Maiden up, and then he noticed a terrible thing. Her beautiful fluffy fringe was burnt right off. It must have happened when the Hattifatteners brushed against her. 
What could he say? How could he comfort her? It was a catastrophe! 
The Snork Maiden opened her eyes and smiled. 
"Do you know," said Moomintroll hastily, "it's most extraordinary, but as time goes on I'm beginning to prefer girls without hair?" 
"Really?" she said with a look of surprise. "Why is that?" 
"Hair looks so untidy!" replied Moomintroll.

I hope you enjoyed my little comparisons.  I had fun doing the "research" reading yesterday!

Today is the last day you can leave a comment for a chance to win my Swedish Book Bundle Giveaway!  One lucky winner will receive all three of these great picture books: Per and the Dala Horse; Lucia Morning in Sweden; and D is for Dala Horse.

  • Leave a comment with your first name and last initial on my previous Giveaway Post - go here.
  • If you already left a comment there, you may comment again here (remember to include your first name and last initial) on this post for an additional entry. 
  • Giveaway ends at midnight tonight.  
  • Winner announced here on my blog on Saturday, August 27, 2016.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hello, Mr. H.C. Andersen; Goodbye Scandinavia! (GIVEAWAY TIME!)

Today I'm ending my Literary Scandinavia Travel Posts with a GIVEAWAY and a few photos of the first bookish things I said hello to as my mom, sisters, and I started our tour in Copenhagen, Denmark....

We made a short stop at Langelinje Pier to see the famed statue of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid.  She has been passing time in the Copenhagen Harbor for over a 100 years.  She looked beautiful, and a little sad, sitting on her rock.

Then we stumbled upon a statue of the Danish author himself!  Right there, on the sidewalk along Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard!

You may recall that I mentioned Mr. Andersen in my post about the Nordic alphabet book D is for Dala Horse.  "H is for Hans Christian Andersen..."

Which brings me to my giveaway!  One lucky reader will win a bundle of three books for my Scandinavian Giveaway...

Book #1
D is for Dala Horse (ages 4-8) by Kathy-jo Wargin, illustrated by Renee Graef.  Go here for my post about this fun and informative Nordic alphabet book.

Book #2
Per and the Dala Horse (ages 5-8) by Rebecca Hickox, illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert.  With gorgeous illustrations, this imaginative book tells a Swedish version of a traditional "three brothers" folktale - complete with trolls, a magical Dala horse, and a brave boy who is trying to recover a gold communion cup that's been stolen from his church.

Book #3
Lucia Morning in Sweden (ages 4 and up) by Ewa Rydaker, illustrated by Carina Stahlberg.  The author invites you into her childhood home in this sweet book about St. Lucia Day, which is observed every year on December 13.  The resources at the end are wonderful: you'll find the legend of Saint Lucia; recipes for Lucia buns and ginger snaps; music and lyrics for the Santa Lucia Song; and helpful patterns for the Lucia (and/or Starboy) gown.

Well, dear readers - I hope you've enjoyed my little literary blog tour of Scandinavia.  

When my mom proposed the trip to my sisters and me, I didn't know I'd find such a profuse culture of children's books, especially in Sweden!

I've learned a lot as I've introduced you to (or re-acquainted you with) Pippi, Emil, and Moomintroll.  There is not a lot of depth to these fun books: these modern children's stories began appearing in the mid-1940's and are more about the curiosity, humor, and fantasy of childhood than about teaching children lessons through strong characters. 

I didn't really touch upon the well loved Swedish author/illustrator Elsa Beskow, who often combined reality with elements from the world of fairies.  But I did see her sweet books prominently displayed in bookstores!

Contemporary Swedish authors have no fear of taking on difficult and sometimes controversial subjects for kids. (Go here.)  *Read this for guidelines about how you as a parent can help your kids choose books that are in keeping with your family values - teach them to distinguish issues from virtues.  Some books focus on trendy issues rather than good character development, and many have a message agenda without much of a story.

Left out completely from my blog tour (except for the very Norwegian reference to trolls in the Moomin books and Lindgren's Tomten) are children's stories from Norway.  Other than the D'Aulaire's books (Ingri d'Aulaire was Norwegian) - Leif the Lucky (a Viking boy), Ola, and their book of Norse Myths - I don't really know much about Norwegian kid lit, and didn't have the occasion to come across any during my visit.


  • Please leave a comment here, with your first name and last initial to enter my Swedish Picture Book Giveaway.  
  • You'll have a chance to win this bundle of three outstanding picture books about Scandinavia!
  • Giveaway ends at midnight on Friday, August 26, 2016.
  • Stop back by my blog on Saturday, August 27, 2016, when the winner will be announced.
  • Winner must provide me with their mailing address to receive the books.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Have You Met Farmer Pettson and His Cat Findus?

If not, let me introduce you!

Pettson and Findus is a series of children's books written and illustrated by Swedish author Sven Nordqvist. The humorous books feature a quiet old farmer and his lively cat who live in a small ramshackle farmhouse in the countryside.

Bearded Farmer Pettson may have neighbors who think he is a bit odd, but luckily he has the companionship of a cat named "Findus".

Pettson presumably is a widower - in Pettson Goes Camping he tells of a planned camping trip with his wife in his youth. 

Findus the cat is very child-like:  dressed in green-striped overalls and sometimes wearing a cap, he can stand on his two hind legs - and he can be tricky.

Happily, Pettson and Findus can converse with each other.  But, Findus, unlike Pettson, is aware of other "small creatures" living in the house, who play havoc with Pettson's belongings.

Each humorous story focuses on simple events, such as making pancakes, gardening, going fishing, getting ready for Christmas, and so on.  Because of the antics and humor, these books are especially fun to read-aloud!

The exhibit, aimed at children 5-9, is at Kulturen through September 3, 2017

I was able to hunt down Pettson and Findus at "Kulturen" in Lund, Sweden.  This cultural center is made up of open air museums, with gardens and historic buildings and lots of great exhibitions.

As you enter the historic building that houses the Pettson and Findus exhibit, to the left you'll find a fun interactive play area that the author and illustrator of the books, Sven Nordqvist, helped design.

I saw kids climbing, sliding, exploring, and pretending in all the settings from the books!  There was the boat on a lake, the kitchen, henhouse, and barn...

The other half of the building houses exhibits where kids can see old farm equipment, home furnishings, and things used in past times for everyday country living.

I hope you liked my little blog tour today.  Please go and find some Pettson and Findus books at your local library, if you haven't already.

And please come back - I'm doing a Swedish picture book giveaway bundle in my next post!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Beyond Pippi: The Legacy of Astrid Lindgren

AFP/Getty Images 1966

Astrid Lindgren's daughter Karin was sick in bed and asked her mother to tell her a story.

“Tell me about Pippi Longstocking”, she pleaded (making up a random name), and in that moment she had invented what was to become one of the world’s most popular children’s book characters.

“Since the name was remarkable, it had to be a remarkable girl”, said Astrid Lindgren. For years she was making up new stories for Karin and her friends.

Then one spring day, in March 1944, Astrid fell and sprained her ankle. To pass the time, while she was resting it, she put the Pippi stories down on paper. It was going to be a present for Karin’s 10th birthday in May.

That was the start of a great career.

Statue of Astrid Lindgren outside of Junibacken Museum in Stockholm

Astrid Lindgren [1907-2002] has been showered with countless honors and awards.  She is fondly remembered in Sweden, including Stockholm, where she lived as an adult and wrote her books. 

My tour guide's wife was happy to share some of her favorite titles with me when we were in Stockholm checking out Sweden's largest children's bookstore in the Junibacken Museum.

According to the museum website, the Junibacken story started with Astrid Lindren, and there is even a "Story Train" ride for kids through settings of her children's books.  She wrote the text, and her voice is heard narrating in Swedish.

When my children were young, we enjoyed Lindgren's picture books Christmas in the Stable and The Tomten, and we laughed at The Children in Noisy Village and my childhood favorite, Pippi Longstocking (find my post here). 

At the museum bookstore, my tour guide's wife recommended several books I was not familiar with by Astrid Lindgren -  The Brothers Lionheart, and the Emil in Lonneberga books.  They are on my shelf here at home now, waiting to be read and reviewed!

Astrid on reading:
“And we were sitting there on the floor, my brother and I, listening to her reading this wondrous story about ‘the giant Bam-Bam and Viribunda the fairy’. Well! That I didn’t die on the spot! In that instant a hunger to read was born in me, and with the impatience of a four year-old, I stared at those strange black squiggles which Edit could interpret, but I couldn’t. As if by some curious magic, the whole kitchen could suddenly be filled with fairies, giants and goblins.”

While touring Sweden, we drove through the area where Astrid Lindgren was born and grew up, and though I didn't get to visit her childhood home (the inspiration for many of her stories), we saw many quaint houses and barns painted "Swedish red" like hers!

Seriously, don't you just expect to see those children of Noisy Village running about!?

By the way, Pippi Longstocking is alive and well in Sweden - we saw lots of Pippi merchandise...

I think Astrid would be happy about that!

Please visit this informative website to see pictures of Astrid Lindgren's childhood home, and for an in-depth look at her life, books, and beloved characters: www.astridlindgren.se

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A New Book (For Me), in Which I am Introduced to a Moomintroll

What do you get from an author who 1) was born into the Swedish speaking minority of Finland; 2) spent her summers in a family cottage on an island; 3) had a father who was a sculptor, and a mother who was a graphic designer; and 4) as a young woman became so sad during WWII that she wanted to write something innocent and hopeful?  Tove Jansson's  Moomins!

If you've been following my blog the past few weeks, you are aware that I recently returned from a tour of Scandinavia. Our tour guide's sweet wife (herself a lover of children's literature and especially Astrid Lindren - more about that later), made sure I got to make a quick stop at the largest children's bookstore in Sweden. 

The bookstore was in a museum called Junibacken, which is devoted to children's literature.

Junibacken Museum happened to have a Mumin (Swedish for "Moomin") Exhibit while we were there!  The exhibit consisted of a little themed playland with lots of fun settings from Tove Jansson's books...

Moominmamma's Kitchen

Well, truth be told, I had never read the Moomin books, but I had seen them listed on several "Best Children's Books" lists.  So I excitedly purchased my first one!

Are they trolls, or what?
I'm not really sure...
As you can see, they are way cuter than the ugly Troll I came across at the Voss train station in Norway!

But Moomintrolls certainly seem to have stepped out of the world of Scandinavian folk-lore!

Finn Family Moomintroll is the third in the series, and the first one  ever translated into English.  I figured the English speaking world's introduction to the Moomin family was a good place for me to start!

Tove Jonsson's adorable illustrations really add to the stories.  They bring the reader along, and help us see the land and characters she has created.

(By the way, I adore the vintage book covers like the one above - see more here.  In my opinion, the new Puffin editions like mine, pictured at the top of this post, completely leave out the whimsical fairytale nature of the books.)

In Finn Family Moomintroll, the first bit of real magic happens after the Moomins have woken up from their long winter sleep and are enjoying a spring day mountain-top experience.  That's when they find a black top hat.

A Hobgoblin's Hat!  (Which they bring home.)

In the corner between the table and the kitchen door stood the Hobgoblin's Hat with the eggshell in the bottom.  And then something really strange happened.  The eggshell began to change its shape.
(This is what happens, you see.  If something lies long enough in the Hobgoblin's Hat it begins to change into something quite different - what that will be you never know beforehand.  It was lucky that the hat hadn't fitted Moomominpappa because the-Protector-of-all-Small-Beasts knows what would have become of him if he had worn it a bit longer.  As it was he only got a slight headache - and that was over after dinner.)
Meanwhile the eggshell had become soft and woolly, although it still stayed white, and after a time it filled the hat completely.  Then five small clouds broke away...

Moomintroll (Moomminpappa and Moominmamma's child) and the Snork Maiden (his friend) figure out how to fly the little clouds.  So they hop on, and away they go!  

They come across Hemulen (another Moomin), who collects stamps.

When they greet him, Hemulen says:
"That's extraordinary.  But I'm so used to your doing extraordinary things that nothing surprises me.  Besides I'm feeling melancholy just now...my stamp collection is complete"....

"I think I'm beginning to understand," said Moomintroll slowly.  "You aren't a collector anymore, you're only and owner, and that isn't nearly so much fun."

There are all sorts of whimsical (and some slightly scary) characters in Moominvalley, and they go through all sorts of non-sensical adventures.  

Think Edith Nesbit's "Psammead", from The Five Children and It, mixed with L. Frank Baum's The Marvelous Land of Oz, a little bit of of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood thrown in, and you've got an idea of how fun these books are.

Have you read about the Moomins?  If you haven't, I think you and your child will really like these silly little creatures!

And please come back for more posts - I still have a Scandinavian Book Giveaway coming up! 

Monday, August 1, 2016

D is for Dalahäst!

In olden days a wooden Dala horse - "Dalahäst" - was a toy for children; in modern times it has become a symbol of Sweden itself.

Since these red hand painted horses have been part of Swedish folkart for over 300 years, a trip to Scandinavia would be incomplete without a visit to a workshop where the popular wooden horses are still made today.  Here's what I saw...

Before the 1920's and the invention of the bandsaw, Dala horses were completely made by hand. Today they are still hand carved and hand painted, after the horse pattern is stamped onto wooden blocks and cut out with the saw.

My grandson loves the little Dala horses I brought home to add to my small collection.  He set up a whole parade going across our kitchen table, and he was fascinated by the pictures I took at the workshop.

I decided to google "Swedish Dala horse" and found a video so my grandson could watch the whole process of how they are made.  

Go here to watch this excellent video all about the Dalahäst workshop I visited.

Which brings me to today's awesome Nordic alphabet picture book, D is for Dala Horsewritten by Kathy-jo Wargin and illustrated beautifully by Renee Graef (she also illustrated the first American Girl Collection Kirsten books from Pleasant Company.)

Psst...I'll be giving away this Nordic alphabet book (and more)  soon, so stay tuned to my upcoming Scandinavian Literary Travel posts!

As my grandson and I read D is for Dala Horse together, we had fun going back and forth from the cute book illustrations and descriptions for each letter to my (very!) similar photos.  The author included many of the interesting things I saw, such as...

B is for...Bunad (a Norwegian way to dress)...

C is for...Copenhagen

D is for...Dala horse

F is for...Fjords

H is for...Hans Christian Anderson

O is for...Oslo

R is for...Runestones

T is for...Troll... 

V is for...Viking ship

I've got lots more to tell you about Scandinavia in my upcoming posts. You can find D is for Dala Horse here (or wait for my Scandinavian Giveaway!)  Remember, you're always welcome here on my Good Books For Young Souls Blog...come in and stay awhile!