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Mon 26 Mar 2012 16:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 26 March 2012

Presented by Mariella Frostrup.

Why does Scandinavian children's literature 'punch above its weight' in terms of worldwide sales, and why does it have a particularly unique voice?

From the super-human strength of Pippy Longstocking by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren to the strange Finnish animals dreamt up by Tove Jansson in the Moomin stories, and the anarchic Wild Baby created by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson.

It began with probably the best known storyteller for children - Hans Christian Andersen - continued with the work of Elsa Beskow, the Swedish Beatrix Potter, and is alive today in the books of authors like Gro Dahle.

According to Professor Maria Nikolajeva, a senior editor for the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Children's Literature, Scandinavian books are not rooted in the world of fantasy, like other children's stories. It's often grounded in a slightly skewed reality in which the childlike characters exhibit 'magical' talents. And she claims that the Scandinavian culture of respect for the child, the history of the region, and those long winters, have had a profound effect on the character of its literature.

Produced by Helen Lee.

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