Brightening up

Heart of Ice by Tomibam CC
On 28th March 1944, during WWII in neutral Sweden, a 36 year old secretary began to write children's stories in shorthand. She had sprained her ankle slipping on ice and for something to do whilst she could not move, she wrote down the stories she had told her daughter Karin when she was poorly.

Those stories were published to the delight of millions of children - and over a long life, the writer had sales of over 150 million, saw her work translated into 95 different languages and created over 70 children's titles.

She is the third most translated writer for children  - after Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm. Not only that, but she was honoured for her campaigns for both children's rights and animal rights  - and a satellite was named after her.

Her most famous creation was a freckled superstrong girl called Pippi Longstocking - and the writer's name was Astrid Lindgren.

In all that marvellous career - she lived to her 90s and the Swedish Royal family came to her funeral - one incident stands out. Stockholm is a small capital city and the writer was well-known there. One day a strange woman approached Astrid Lindgren. She didn't say a word but pushed a piece of paper into her hand, then ran away. Astrid Lindgren opened up the crumpled note and read the message inside:

Thank you for brightening up a gloomy childhood.

I think all of us, writers and illustrators, would like to do that.

by Ingrid Vang Nyman (1916-1959).
Some suggestions for you

What if your main character injures herself - slips over on the ice outside a train station like Astrid Lindgren?
  • How can she get about?
  • What are her limitations?
  • How does that feel inside - and how do you show it?
  • How does she amuse herself confined to a small apartment, say?
  • What are the consequences?
Astrid Lindgren wrote:

 "And so I write the way I myself would like the book to be – if I were a child. I write for the child within me."

She used her childhood memories from the farm in Smaland to deepen her understanding of what children want. What sort of thing do you remember wishing for?
  • Strength like Pippi has, enough to pick up a horse - or bullies?
  • Riches like her never-ending suitcase full of gold? 
  • Adventures on the high seas, perhaps playing marbles with pearls?
  • Friends like Tommy,  Annika,  a horse, and a monkey called Mr Nelson?
  • 18 kg of sweets in one shopping trip?
Do your characters have any desires like these?

Pippi Longstocking is far from ordinary:

You understand Teacher, don't you, that when you have a mother who's an angel and a father who is a cannibal king, and when you have sailed on the ocean all your whole life, then you don't know just how to behave in school with all the apples and ibexes.

She doesn't even look 'normal', with different coloured stockings, mad red plaits and joyous freckles. Yet she has a strong sense of right and wrong.
  • How would your characters defy convention?  
  • What signs are there to delight a child?
  • Could your character tell tall tales on one hand - yet own up for her mistakes?
  • Would she take on boring teachers or unkind policemen - then tend to an ancient horse herself?
I leave you with an inspiring quotation  which works just as well for artists:

I can only say this: There is no other child who inspires me as much as the child I once was. You don’t have to have children of your own to create children’s books: you just need to have been a child once yourself, and then try to remember how it was.
adapted from Astrid Lindgren's own author page


  1. Wonderful tribute to her! And great inspiration for children's writers.

  2. Everyday academic challenges make every student face a set of certain problems. These problems in the first place deal with the importance of choosing the proper theme for an academic paper in the first place and making it creative in the second place.


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