Posts Tagged ‘elsa beskow’

It’s no secret that autumn is my favorite season. I only wish we could spread it out much longer.

Grab some spiced cider, a cinnamon doughnut, and a batch of prime autumnal books and revel in all things fall!

Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter, written and illustrated by Kenard Pak
published in 2017 by Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company

Kenard Pak does it again! I loved his transition from Summer to Autumn (reviewed here), and this look at a world gradually moving from late autumn’s windswept branches to the first dustings of snow is equally gorgeous.

Pak’s pristine illustrations capture that nip in the air, the spare beauty of late autumn when fragments of color and life linger amid increasingly barren trees, dry seedpods, long shadows, shivering nights. I love that he focuses here on that bridge time rather than the full-on splendor of fall we find in most autumnal books. Outdoor rambling at its best for ages 2 and up.

In the Middle of Fall, written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
published in 2017 by Greenwillow Books

Kevin Henkes spins just two sentences into a lovely whirl of tumbling fall leaves and sprinklings of snowflakes in this cheerful ode to autumn.

Take notice! Drink in those riotous colors. Enjoy those frisketing squirrels. Soon that slight chill in the air will turn to brrrrr-coldness and we’ll arrive in winter.

Laura Dronzek’s bold shapes, close-up perspectives, and saturated colors envelop us in the cozy beauties of the natural world. Perfection for ages 18 months and up.

Full of Fall, written and photographed by April Pulley Sayre
published in 2017 by Beach Lane Books

April Pulley Sayre continues her superb run of nature-infused, photographic splendors that treat young children to the beauties of the outdoors accompanied by a dignified, rhyming text.

I love the way Sayre respects young minds with her work. There’s nothing juvenile or cutesy here. Just the glories of the woodlands in autumn to soak up with children as young as under-Two.  Two additional pages discuss the science of pigments, leaf structure, decomposition, and more, geared to ages 6 or 7 and up.

Woody, Hazel and Little Pip, written and illustrated by Elsa Beskow
originally published in Sweden in 1939; first English edition 1990 by Floris Books

Swedish favorite Elsa Beskow created marvelous stories populated by all manner of fanciful woodland sorts — elves, fairies, gnomes, trolls, blueberry children, Frost Kings…

This story finds two adventurous brothers — Woody and Little Pip Acorn — gliding away from home on a whirling, twirling leaf, landing in a peck of trouble, and gamely making the best of it, trolls and all. Their friend Hazel hitches a ride on a neighborhood squirrel in search of them and runs into her own batch of escapades.

Unlike Peter Rabbit’s mama, Mrs. Acorn and Mrs. Hazelnut throw a party when these naughty children return! Charming as ever, this is a longer-than-usual picture book story for patient listeners ages 3 and up.

Our Apple Tree, written by Görel Kristina Näslund, illustrated by Kristina Digman
first published in Sweden; American edition published in 2005 by Roaring Brook Press

Capturing a pinch of the same elfkin vibe of Beskow, this Swedish story traces the life of an apple tree through one cycle of seasons, from winter snows through blossoms and straight on through to a golden-crusted apple pie. Yum!

Two tiny apple-elves who call this tree home are our guides on this quaint, gentle journey. A recipe for Apple Crisp is included. Ages 2 and up.

There are many more book-treasures for Autumn reading listed in my Subject Index. Enjoy!



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Red Sled, by Lita Judge

In the blue, starlit coldness, one cozy cabin glows golden light through its snow-trimmed window.  A jolly red sled leans up against the log wall, resting after a day of coasting.

Then, tiptoe-tiptoe-tiptoe…off goes the sled, tucked under the woolsy arm of a smiling brown bear.  Soon, bear and his forest friends are careening down the slopes on that bright red sled.  Slooping, whooping, dipsy-doodling, plunging into snow drifts.  So much fun!  As the sky lightens, bear responsibly returns the sled.

But, the little red-capped girl who owns it  notices those giant bear tracks the next day.  So, she spies.  And when bear returns for more red-sled-mayhem, guess who’s ready to join them!

This is a nearly wordless book.  The text consists of onomatopoeia sounds expressing the joy and exhilaration of a walloping good sledding run!  Pair that subdued word count with phenomenal illustrations and you have a double-dip of picture book goodness!  Smudgy gray pencil lines outline minimalist hills and trees, creating a soft, wintry landscape.  Bold, close perspectives in gorgeous colors bring us nose to nose with frolicking animals, a honey-brown bear, and of course, that cranberry-red sled.  I love this book, new in 2011.

Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time, by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay

Houndsley is a comfy, easy-going fellow.  Catina is dainty and chic, a bit more prone to fretting.  The two of them have been practicing, cello and clarinet respectively, for a winter concert, but as the day begins, so does the snow.

It’s the first snow of the winter, and it’s a doozy.  Fluffy white flakes mound into drifts, sift onto window ledges, settle on trees.  Houndsley enjoys this quiet time, when the snow makes its own music of silence and everything comes to a stand still.  Catina frets.  How will she get home to curl her whiskers and change into her new concert dress?  Worse yet, what if the concert can’t go on?!

Houndsley wisely advises Catina to enjoy what the snow has brought — a chance to tuck in to homey pastimes.  Poetry writing.  Board games.  Cozy fires.  Snowman building.  And, after all, when twilight settles, the musicians gather in a twinkling park gazebo and play beautiful music to match the snow-muffled neighborhood.

This charming story, with its clear adulation for the beauty of snow and the pleasure of quiet days, is a long-ish easy reader.  Along with Houndsley’s sage advice, there is a nice dash of dry humor, and gallons of friendly affection. Gay’s endearing,  loose watercolors capture the white thrill of snowstorms, the orangey warmth of fireside, and the merry colors of  mittens and music.  Lovely.

Ollie’s Ski Trip, written and illustrated by Elsa Beskow

Little, Swedish, Ollie receives a handsome pair of skis for his sixth birthday.  Always before, his skis have only been cobbled together from bits of plank, so these proper skis are simply begging to be put to use.  However, this year, winter stubbornly refuses to cooperate!  Ollie anxiously waits and waits for the ground to turn white with snow.

Finally, it comes!  Two whole days and nights of powdery, white, goodness!  Ollie gulps down his porridge, straps on his skis, stuffs a sandwich in each jacket pocket, and shooshes off into the forest for a day of gorgeous winter adventure.  And my gracious, what an adventure!

Before day is done, Ollie has met Jack Frost, clothed in glittering splendor, helped shoo away miserable Mrs. Thaw, journeyed to King Winter’s magnificent snow castle, watched the King’s elves crafting toboggans, joined in a marvelous snowball fight…oh my!

Elsa Beskow (1874-1953) is the darling of Swedish children’s literature.  Her books, so full of magical delights and out-of-doors enchantment, are available in many languages, for good reason.  The stories are perfectly tuned to a child’s imaginative point of view.  Her artwork is perhaps even more appealing.  Pure, clear watercolors of northern landscapes, peopled by bearded men in long, white, fur-trimmed coats, darling little  boys and girls in Sami-style clothing, and Ollie sporting his cherry-red woolen hat.  I bought a copy of this when I visited Sweden about 30 years ago, and have collected a couple copies in English for my children.  It’s one of our favorites.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers

“Whose woods these are I think I know.  His house is in the village, though;”  Robert Frost’s masterful poem with its slow, peaceful cadence echoing the heavy snow,  the plodding horse, the steady, frosty breaths of an unhurried man, is a lovely piece to share with children.

Susan Jeffers has illustrated it beautifully in this book, tracing the course of a man bundled into his sleigh, red plaid jacket like a cardinal amid the frosty, still countryside around him.   Graphite drawings of soft, bare branches etch the overcast skies; pine forests are muted by snowy air; filigree snowflakes, and swirling millions of flakes flood the pages; subtly-tinted or wintry-white forest creatures fill the scenes — many are hidden so cleverly, you have to look long to find them.

Jeffers’ illustrations partner with the tone of the poem beautifully and her interpretation makes the poem’s storyline come alive.  This is a superb way of sharing this poem with young children.

Snow, written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz

The tired, gray city stands, bleakly, against the low, gray sky, when, lo!  One snowflake appears.  A tiny, white, speck, drifting lazily down.  For one optimistic, snow-loving boy and his faithful dog, that one snowflake is enough!  “It’s snowing,” he declares.  Hopes for a hefty snowfall are firmly lodged in his heart.

It’s a good thing his hope is stalwart, too, because no one else shares his opinion.  Grandfather, sophisticated gentleman, snooty woman, radio and television prognosticators — everybody assures him that there will definitely not be snow.  But guess what!  Snowflakes don’t watch television!

Wonderfully, incessantly, the snow does fall, blanketing the dreary city in a robe of exquisite white, filling the air with wild polka dots of snow, sculpting the cityscape into a powdered sugar confection.  And…the boy and his dog aren’t the only ones celebrating!  You’ll be surprised to find out who joins him!

Uri Shulevitz won a Caldecott Honor for this eye-pleasing, minimally-worded story in 1999.  Those of us who hope against hope every time we see a flake in the air find it particularly satisfying!

Here are Amazon links for all these snowy treasures:

Red Sled

Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time

Ollie’s Ski Trip (v. 1)

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Snow (Sunburst Books)

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My heritage is Swedish. 

On both my father’s and mother’s side, the aromas of coffee and cardamom bread and the sounds of Swedish hymns are mingled with memories of grandparents.  I remember sitting in the rocking chair on my grandmother’s sunny porch, listening to my dad read stories in Swedish about the tomten, as well as deep familiarity with the entire shelf of Flicka, Ricka and Dicka, and Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr at my small, northern Minnesota library.  There are quite a number of Swedish authors whose work has been translated into English.  Today, I’m featuring  just five of these beloved authors:

The Children of Noisy Village, by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Ilon Wikland

Astrid Lindgren is perhaps the most famous Swedish children’s author.  In the U.S., she is known chiefly as the creator of Pippi Longstocking, an iconic character in children’s literature.  Yet, if this is the extent of your knowledge of Lindgren’s books, you are truly missing out.

We have enjoyed so many of Lindgren’s books, it’s hard to pick just one for the blog, but I’ve chosen The Children of Noisy Village, an extraordinarily appealing book for ages 5 and up. 

The Children of Noisy Village is a short-ish chapter book featuring six Swedish schoolchildren who live on three neighboring farms in the pleasant Swedish countryside.  Lisa and Karl, Britta and Anna, and Olaf lead a fairly idyllic life, and these chapters follow them through one delightful year.  Crayfishing with their fathers at their camp on the lake, a New Year’s party with a special lead-melting game, Christmas and Easter and birthdays, each is charmingly narrated by nine-year-old Lisa, as well as many other everyday escapades.  The overall feel is one of warmth, simple joys, healthy independence, lively imaginations, and loving families.

Ilon Wikland is a superb illustrator, born in Estonia but living in Sweden from her teen-age years.  She has illustrated many of Lindgren’s books with her charming, fetching style that perfectly captures the happy, sunny personalities of the characters and their setting. There are several other volumes of Noisy Village stories if you fall in love with these, as we have.

Pelle’s New Suit, written and illustrated by Elsa Beskow

Elsa Beskow is another of the most well-loved Swedish author/illustrators, who began her prolific career just prior to 1900.  Although some of her titles date back over a century, a good number are still in print and easy to locate.

Pelle’s New Suit is a picture book about a little boy, Pelle, who has outgrown his short brown jacket and breeches.  Pelle solves that problem quite industriously,  beginning by shearing his own lamb.  He takes the wool to his darling grandmother, who agrees to card it if Pelle will weed her carrot patch.  Pelle continues to barter labor for labor as we see the wool spun, dyed, woven, and sewn, until finally Pelle’s handsome new blue suit is ready for him. 

Beskow’s illustrations are incredibly charming, depicting pastoral Swedish landscapes with birch trees in green meadows; colorful interiors of Swedish cottages with painted wood furniture and striped, woven rugs; tow-headed children in bare feet and women in full aprons.  Each painting presents a sunny, nostalgic, Scandinavian scene.  Once you’re acquainted with her work, you’ll likely reach for more, and there are plenty of titles to choose from. 

Finn Family Moomintroll, written and illustrated by Tove Jansson

Okay, Tove Jansson was not a Swedish author.  She was Finnish.  But, Tove Jansson was a Swede-Finn, which is also a segment of my heritage.  This means she was part of a small population of Swedish-speaking Finnish citizens, and all her Moomintroll books were originally written in Swedish.  So, she gets to be part of today’s list.

Jansson is one of the most well-known Finnish writers, mainly because of the delightful, whimsical, eccentric, engaging characters she created who populate the world of the Moomins.  There are numerous volumes of Moomin lore, but I’ve chosen Finn Family Moomintroll as a good jumping-off point for those of you still uninitiated into Moomin culture.

So, what is a Moomin?  Well, it’s a little creature that looks like this:
Generally small and plump.  Kind-hearted.  They sleep all winter long.

Moominpappa, Moominmamma, and Moomintroll abide in a loving. welcoming household in Moominvalley.  It is their doings and musings which form the basic skeleton of the plots in Janson’s amusing adventures.  The plotlines, however, rove and meander into many offbeat little areas along the way, and encompass a cast of characters unlike any others you’ve met:  beautiful, but slightly-ditzy Snork Maiden, tart and brash Little My, adventurous Snufkin and a crowd of ghostly, mushroomlike Hattifattners, confused Thingummy and Bob, the cold and creepy Groke…all these and many, many more pop up in one or more volumes of Moomin stories.

Finn Family Moomintroll introduces some of these characters, though the introductions in any case are not exactly formal.  Suddenly a new character is there, complete with a backstory, and it is up to you to embrace him or her as a long-lost friend.  The plotline in this book follows the Hobgoblin’s magical hat, which causes all kinds of excitement and surprise for the Moomins and their friends.

Great little fantasies for young elementary on up through adult.  A couple of the titles have plots that are hazier and more philosophical, but Comet in Moominland and Moominsummer Madness are fantastic follow-ups to this title.  We adore the Moomins.

Stina, written and illustrated by Lena Anderson

Lena Anderson is a superb illustrator who has also written numerous children’s books.  She is probably best known in the U.S. for her illustrations of Linnea in Monet’s Garden (co-authored with Christina Björk.)  I’ve seen her referred to as Sweden’s “modern Elsa Beskow,” but had a terrible time finding out very much about her.  One of her books that we’ve adored for years is Stina.

Stina is a plucky, white-blonde, girl who is lucky enough to visit her dear grandpa in his house by the sea every summer.  There, they arise early in the morning for coffee by the glass-smooth waters of the sea, then head out in the wooden fishing dory to check Grandpa’s nets.  Stina ambles along the rocky coast collecting treasures washed ashore by the waves, and the two of them eat fresh fish at the picnic table each evening, with the gulls ever near hoping for pickings.  Gah.  What a lovely set of days.  The trouble comes when Stina decides to get an up-close look at the sea during a storm, but gets a bit more wet wildness than she bargains for.  Grandpa’s response to her calamity is one of my very favorites in children’s literature.  I love him!

Anderson’s watercolors are exquisite.  Light soaked, clear…I can feel the calming serenity of open water, smell the slightly fishy sea air, feel the cool fresh air on my face, just looking at these pictures.  And Stina and Grandpa?  Simply beautiful people.  There is a sequel called Stina’s Visit which is just as sweet.  Then, search out other titles by Anderson for more fresh, charming, wonderfulness.

The Ditch Picnic, by Edith Unnerstad, illustrated by Ylva Källström

Unnerstad is another Finnish writer, who moved to Sweden early in life and wrote her many, many children’s stories in Swedish.  Some of her most famous books revolve around the Pip-Larsson family, a large, active group whose adventures actually became a television series.  I’ve chosen a much less familiar picture book of hers for the last book in the blog today.

The Ditch Picnic is the story of four happy, independent children, plus a dog and cat, who set out one fine day on a long walk to the woods for a picnic.  Mother puts together one uncommonly delicious spread, with stacks of sandwiches and sausages, waffles with jam and sugar, bottles of soda, and even goodies for the pets.  The two girls in this foursome are quite ladylike, dressed in charming skirts and pushing the perambulator with the dolls.  They are secretly looking forward to a special make-believe time with the added finery they’ve tucked into the pram, while the boys go off  hunting wolves in the forest.  Plans go awry, however, when the boys become tired of lugging the picnic and the four settle for a jolly picnic just in the ditch along the edge of the path.

The carefree joys of children and sunshine and picnics and freedom bubble up from this charming story.  In addition, the illustrations are cheery, bright glimpses of barefoot kids and wild strawberries, red checkered tablecloths and Queen Anne’s lace — all the best ingredients of childhood.

Here are Amazon links for these titles:
The Children of Noisy Village
Pelle’s New Suit
Finn Family Moomintroll (Moomintrolls)

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