There are some really lovely children’s books by Swedish authors that have been translated into English. Here are a few that we found and loved as we did our unit study on Sweden.
Pancakes for Findus – by Sven Nordqvist
This is the first in a series of books about an eccentric old man and his cat. Their misadventures are fun and humorous, and the story is accompanied by detailed illustrations that add to the humor in the book. It’s one of those books where the humor is found in the combination of the text and the illustrations — there’s not quite enough information in either to get the full joke, but together they’re hilarious.
Children of the Forest – by Elsa Beskow
This sweet story follows a family of little people (they’re about the size of squirrels), as they live out their daily lives in the Swedish forest. Their adventures are intriguing — they ride on bats, kill snakes, and harvest mushrooms for the winter. The illustrations are quaint and charming, and the story is sweet and memorable.
Per and the Dala Horse – by Rebecca Hickox
This brightly illustrated retelling of a classic folk tale features three brothers making use of their inheritance, a toy horse that proves useful in unexpected ways, and adventures with trolls.
The Tomten – by Astrid Lindgren
A gentle and charming tale of an old Tomten who watches over the farm when everyone is sleeping. This reminded me a bit of tales of the Brownies and Leprechauns, except that the Tomten is kind and doesn’t get into mischief. The illustrations are lovely, and they show the beauty of the snowy winter landscape.
Lucia Morning in Sweden – by Ewa Rydaker
This book holds a special place in my heart, because the mother of a friend of mine from growing up was Swedish, and she would lead us in the celebration of St. Lucia Day every year. I have fond memories of getting up early with my friends (after we’d stayed up far too late the night before) and donning a white nightgown and candle-lit crown in order to bring treats and sing to our parents or friends in their beds. This book is a lovely description of the traditions of this festival, and brought back sweet memories for me personally.
The Boy Who Ate More Than the Giant – by Ulf Löfgren
This collection of Swedish folk tales is well told, and features humorous illustrations to go along with the stories. A few of the tales are somewhat gruesome in their details (as traditional folk tales often are), but they’re also very clever and witty.
Swedish Fairy Tales – translated by Holger Lundbergh
This is a truly beautiful collection of Swedish fairy tales, featuring lovely full-page and full-color illustrations. There are 21 stories in all, by a variety of different authors — including Elsa Beskow and Anna Wahlenberg. The tales feature magicians and mountains, trolls and tomten. The stories are all very readable, and full of a magical richness that’s quite different from the traditional French and English fairy tales that I’m used to.
The Children of Noisy Village – by Astrid Lindgren
This lovely chapter book follows the life of 9-year-old Lisa and her siblings and friends as they go to school, celebrate holidays, and get into mischief. It was published in the 1960s, so I’m sure it’s a bit dated, but I loved peeking into the everyday life of these Swedish children. My son loved this book as a read aloud — its descriptions of daily life were intriguing to him, and he wanted to re-enact some of their escapades afterwards.
Pippi Longstocking – by Astrid Lindgren
No list of books about Sweden is complete without Pippi Longstocking. This delightful story about a vivacious 9-year-old with superhuman strength who lives on her own and defies all the conventions is such fun to read. My son thought it was hilarious, and while it doesn’t explicitly discuss Swedish culture very much, it’s considered such a classic of childhood in Sweden that I had to include it in our reading.
Are We There Yet? (Sweden) – 3 episodes about kids visiting Sweden