Why everyone needs to read The Brothers Lionheart

Cherry blossomsThe time has come for me to review one of my absolute favourite books. A book I added to my Classic Club reading list just to get an excuse to re-read it (again) and review it. I’m  talking about The Brothers Lionheart (Bröderna Lejonhjärta) by Astrid Lindgren.

The Brothers Lionheart is primarily a children’s book, aimed at rather young children, but it has plenty to offer older readers. Indeed it is a highly unusual and brave novel. The main-character and narrator is ten-year-old Karl Lionheart and already on the very first page we are told that he is about to die. The story is however not as bleak as it may sound. For children this is primarily a fantasy adventure which deals with sibling love, death and the nature of courage in a way no other children’s books do. It has some really dark parts but it doesn’t stay in the darkness and, as all is told from a child’s perspective, it never really scared me as a kid.

In many ways this novel is more melancholic when read as an adult. Lindgren lets us read between the lines and glimpse a sadder, but equally beautiful, story. She wrote this novel at a time when her favourite brother was seriously ill and a note of love and grief runs through the text. It may look like a children’s novel but it is not afraid to take on the big questions. The result is sad and wise and comforting.

I don’t want to spoil the plot for those of you who have yet to read it, just tell you that you should. I can’t guarantee that you will like it, it is not for everyone, but if you do it is something really special.

If you don’t mind spoilers read this excellent review, but beware, it does give away much of the plot including the ending.

I need to discuss this book with everyone and that can’t be done properly without spoilers so spoilers are welcome in the comment section for this review. If you have not read it yet, avoid the comments and go and read it instead (and do come back to let me know what you thought).

TW: Death, ableism.


20 thoughts on “Why everyone needs to read The Brothers Lionheart

    1. It’s from 1973. Internationally Astrid Lindgren is better known for Pippi Longstocking but she was a prolific writer and have written many of the Nordic children’s classics. The Brothers Lionheart is perhaps the most daring of them and really deserves to be better known outside of the Nordic countries.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I hadn’t heard of this but will read it, I don’t think melancholy makes a book less enjoyable. When I reviewed A Voice Through A Cloud for my classics list I realised I had made it sound very sad, but there was so much beauty – I think it was my quickest read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds so interesting! I know some people think death is a too “dark” theme for middle grade, but, realistically, it’s something people deal with no matter their age, and it can be really helpful to see how book characters come to terms with hard topics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, and by the time kids reach middle-grade I would assume most of them have had at least a distant encounter with death (such as the death of a friends grandparent) and thus starts to have questions. Younger children may want to read it together with a parent though, although arguably it may be harder on the parent than on the child.


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