Monday, September 12, 2011

Swedish Children's Literature: Max

I realize that it is probably criminal to discuss the topic of Swedish children's literature and not to begin with Astrid Lindgren. I love Ms. Lindgren and will tackle that topic when I can give it the time and the attention it deserves. But my kid isn't quite at the Astrid Lindgren stage of development yet, so I have to stick to somewhat simpler pastures.

And so I have chosen Max. When Little Swede was born he received a few of these Max books as gifts. And since then has gotten a few more.  And slowly I began to see that the world of children's literature is somewhat different in Sweden than it is in the US. There is no poetry here. There is no 'let's learn about something' hiding in the background.

No. Max is a naughty little boy. Although the word naughty doesn't really work because he is 'busig' which is a fabulous Swedish word which means both positive and negative things.

In the books that we have Max does things like hit a duck in the face, try to sit his big dog on a tiny potty, take toys from his friends, and an assortment of not nice things to his rather large dog (this dog thing is the bit that worries me, since we have a rather large dog and I don't want Little Swede getting any ideas).

For the most part there are no real consequences for Max's bad behavior. In one instance I think he does get hit by another kid. In another one the dog kind of growls at him. But for the most part, Max gets what he wants, which is his pacifier, a cookie, a ball or a car.

The Max books are written by Barbro Lindgren and concluded with a book for grownups, which is written in a similar style, but includes Max getting married, growing old and dying.

It seems, despite his naughty nature, Max grows up to be a good little Swede. Which is really the point isn't it? Get out all the 'busig' when you are young, so you can follow the rules and understand them when you are old? Or am I missing it?

Ah well, here is a picture of Max dumping his potty on his dog's head. I hope Little Swede doesn't feel too inspired. At least the texts says 'Doggy sad.'


  1. Oh, Max, I know. That kid gets on my nerves!

  2. Jag tror inte Maxböckerna har någon mening med sig. De bara är. Här och nu. Så som barn är när de är av den busiga och nyfikna sorten. Böckerna kommer inte med pekpinnar eller gör så här så blir du bättre när du blir stor, utan de bara är. Själv gillar jag Maxböckerna just för att Max är busig. Alla snälla väluppfostrade små barn i böckerna tyckte jag var tråkigt att läsa för mina barn. Kanske just för att mina barn var (och är) inte speciellt busiga av sig.

  3. Hejsan! Brukar läsa din blogg och tycker du har jättebra analyser utav Sverige (jag är svensk, men bor sedan flera år i MN). Jag ÄLSKAR Max böckerna och min favorit är Max Potta: den är underbar. Jag visste dock inte att den finns en vuxen Max bok... nu får jag leta när jag kommer till Sverige i vinter!!
    Anna i MN

  4. Sven Nordqvist is a must too! Somewhere in between Barbro and Astrid I think.

  5. My son loved Max! Especially 'Max's cart'. (He had one just like it.) I rather liked the books - at least they are realistic. For people with sons, anyway!

  6. är nog för gammal för att ha läst Max, och har inga barn själv, men Barbro Lindgren har skrivit böckerna om Den vilda bebin med. Lite samma sak, och jag *älskade* dem som liten. Min favorit:

  7. I'd translate "busig" as "mischievous".