Building a library for someone else

The first thing I bought for my unborn child was a book. Arguably not the most urgent thing for a soon to be parent to buy (it wasn’t even a board book), but a first step in believing that the small movement in my stomach was a tiny human being who would one day emerge in the outside world. Since then I have inherited and bought many more immediately useful things, but I have also thought about and bought even more children’s books.

Of course this is not a completely new interest, children’s literature have a fairly high status in Sweden and I have been regularly rereading classics by e.g. Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson, but my focus has mostly been on middle grade books. Looking at books for somewhat younger ages has made me realize that picture books and middle grade books share the interesting position of regularly having two readers, a child and an adult reading it aloud, and that the best children’s authors and illustrators take full advantage of this, creating art that is interesting on multiple levels without forgetting that the child is the primary audience. I believe that these additional depths, whether they are in the text itself, in the illustrations, or in the juxtaposition between the two, are what elevates a few children’s books into classics. Tove Jansson and Sven Nordqvist are both authors and illustrators that create this type of books.

In contrast my least favourite children’s books are probably the ones that are made primarily for the adult. These may include jokes intended for the adult that are confusing for the child, a nice moral that the adult may want to teach, but that is presented in a way that is harming the story, or be a book that is only published because it is by a famous author or brand that the adult will recognize.

Somewhere in between are the books that are written exclusively for the child, with their interests and enjoyment as the only goal. I don’t mind those, but I also won’t go out of my way to buy them before I know what my child’s interests actually are. Ideally these would be the books that I would borrow from a library, but as I’m not living in Sweden I guess I will have to be more liberal with my book buying.

As you may expect from this post my reading and blogging habits will probably remain irregular for the foreseeable future, but I hope that you will stick around for my rare posts anyway.

Child’s first bookshelf, although for now containing some of my own favourites.

13 thoughts on “Building a library for someone else

  1. Congratulations! 🥳 I spied some Tove Jansson there, do you also have a favorite Astrid Lindgren book for smaller children? There’s a lavishly illustrated edition of three short stories about Lotta that my family loves!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Lotta ones are great, I remember having a few of those as a child and definitely plan to add them to the collection eventually. She also wrote quite a few novellas, several of which have been turned into picture books, and a few chapters from her longer books have also been separated into independent illustrated books, but I believe that the Lotta books are among the best ones. In recent years there has also been republished a few picture books with Christmas tales written by Astrid Lindgren, I suspect that they are lesser known for a reason but I’ve bought two of them and plan to read them for the first time myself during Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is one about the Bullerbyn children and their Christmas, lovingly illustrated! We also had one of hers about a troll on a farm in winter, called The Tomten – a sweet one, perfect for winter nights.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I wonder if the Bullerbyn one might be an extract from one of her novels, in that case I might prefer the full version, but Tomten, yet unread, is waiting under the Christmas tree (don’t tell anyone…)


  2. Felicitations are, I gather, in order, Johanna, so if so I wish you plenty of them! And of course your loyal readership will be here whenever you have the time, energy and inclination to share something with us!

    After The Brothers Lionheart I’ve now borrowed Ronia the Robber’s Daughter from the library to read for Nordic FINDS Month in January, and I know there are a couple of Moomin books I’ve yet to enjoy. Sven Nordqvist is a new name for me so I shall see what titles of his are available in English here.

    In the meantime I wish you God Jul, and hope that you have a very restful holiday period!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I hope so, the child is still unborn, perhaps appropriately for advent, but hopefully not for many weeks more.

      I hope and think that you’ll enjoy Ronia, it is my second favourite Lindgren novel. A bit less controversial than The Brothers Lionheart, so I tend to recommend it as an entry point to her works if I’m not sure that the reader will be able to handle The Brothers Lionheart.

      Sven Nordqvist is a picture book author and illustrator, and while he is a good author it is his detailed and entertaining illustrations that he is most famous for. An image search for his name should reveal whether or not it is something you would enjoy.

      God Jul!

      Liked by 1 person

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