Lighting up Children’s Lit

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The people who made a difference: 1 Astrid Lindgren

“I want to write for a readership that can create miracles. Children create miracles when they read. That’s why children need books.”

Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren © Jacob Forsell

As I read about Astrid Lindgren’s life just about a week before the celebration of her 110th birthday (14 November 1907), I cannot help but think about her childhood. How much do the stories you are told influence what you become? Fairy tales made Astrid crave for more stories, and it is the stories she heard and the stories she experienced through her loving family that inspired most of her writing.

If you browse the website dedicated to her, you will see her creativity and kindness shine through the memories shared by her family members – her son, daughter, great-niece remember her in the most honest and loving ways. Although her stories of Pippi Longstocking, Emil, the Brothers Lionheart or Mio speak for themselves and tell you more about the world of Astrid Lindgren than most biographes could, it is worth discovering her background, visit (even virtually) the places where she lived and which influenced her life, and picture the people who were important to her. What kind of person was she? How did she become the ‘accidental revolutionary‘ she was once defined as? And why is the story of Pippi Longstocking such a wonderful literary achievement?

The more you read about Astrid Lindgren, and the more you read her stories, the more you notice that she was an extraordinary, honest and kind person. Anything you read about her talks about a strong, funny and helpful woman. She loved her family, and she was always there for her children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. She helped anyone who needed help, and she cared about issues such as the environment and animals, she fought against violence (speaking up against corporal punishment). She never aimed to become a politcian, but politicians and journalists took her seriously. Although she wrote (apparently) for children the relevance of her work resounds through all layers of society both in her native Sweden and throughout the world.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was established by the Swedish government in her honour and it is awarded to outstanding people or institutions in the field of children’s literature.

In the spirit of this award which aims at spreading the love and appreciation of children’s literature through supporting authors, illustrators and institutions, we would like to invite you to dedicate a lesson to the wonderful world of Astrid Lindgren.

THE LIFE OF ASTRID LINDGREN

THE PERSON

Ask your students if they know anything about her. If they do, ask them to describe

  1. their favourite characters,
  2. their favourite stories.

Then, ask them what they know about the writer. They might not know much about her, and this is when you can share some basic information. You will find a short biography on this website, but when you have the chance, do read about the details of her life.  The text of the short biography is written in the simple present tense and is suitable for elementary plus level students. Ask your students to prepare a biography card.

Here are some questions to guide their reading.

  1. Where was Astrid Lindgren born?
  2. Did she have a happy childhood?
  3. How many brothers and sisters did she have?
  4. When did she move to Stockholm?
  5. What did she study?
  6. How many children did she have?
  7. Who was her husband?
  8. When did she write the first Pippi Longstocking story?
  9. Who did she write it for?
  10. Where did she live as an adult?
  11. What were her main jobs?
  12. When and where did she die?

THE PLACES

Where did Astrid Lindgren grow up? Where is the family home which influenced so much of her writing? Where did she live then? Where did she go in summer? Go to Google Maps to find the following places, then find information and pictures of these places on the Internet.

  • Childhood: Näs, near Vimmerby, Småland
  • Adult life: Stockholm
  • Summer holidays: Furusund, Stockholm Archipelago
    • Check the meaning of ‘archipelago’ and show your students an example on Google Maps.

HER BOOKS

Astrid Lindgren didn’t start writing until she was in her thirties but her books were an immediate success. Pippi Longstocking, her most famous creation was written when her daughter Karen Nyman was ill in bed and asked her mum for stories. You never know where children’s bedtime stories can take your career.

Ask your students to choose one book from this list, read it and then describe the setting, the characters, the themes and retell the narrative.

    • Pippi Longstocking series
    • Karlsson-on-the-Roof series
    • Emil of Lönneberga series
    • Bill Bergson series
    • Madicken series
    • Ronia the Robber’s Daughter
    • Seacrow Island
    • The Six Bullerby Childrenllag
    • Mio, My Son / Mio, My Mio
    • The Brothers Lionheart

ONLINE RESOURCES

You can also visit one of the website dedicated to the life and work of Astrid Lindgren.

References

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