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Fearless Girls and Gentle Boys

Exhibition on Swedish Children’s Literature

May 11th, 2015

The Swedish Embassy in Berlin is to organize a poster exhibition on Swedish children’s literature. The exhibition is titled “Unerschrockene Mädchen und sanfte Jungs” (Fearless Girls and Gentle Boys) and presents Swedish children’s book characters that break gender norms.

The introduction of compulsory elementary school in the mid-1800s made the literacy rate increase in Sweden and spread widely, even amongst young ages and lower social classes. The period from the 1890’s until World War I is recognized as the “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” in Scandinavia. It was during this period that children’s literature became it’s own genre. Selma Lagerlof published Lagerlöf’s The Wonderful Adventures of Nils that became one of the most influential and internationally successful Scandinavian children’s books from this period. Astrid Lindgren has been one of the most influential authors in modern day children’s literature, with her career starting in 1945 when she published the first of the Pippi Longstocking books.

On May 2nd, the exhibition “Unerschrockene Mädchen und sanfte Jungs” opened in the city library in Greifswald. The exhibition presents colourful and entertaining pictures of Swedish children’s book characters alongside their authors and illustrators. The name of the exhibition, meaning fearless girls and gentle boys, offers images of Swedish children’s literature characters that break norms, and have long been role models for children all over the world. Astrid Lindgren created the strong and independent Pippi Longstocking, who challenged gendered norms on how girls are supposed to be. Another character in the exhibition is Gunilla Bergström’s Alfie Atkins who prefers to play with his girlfriends instead of fighting with other guys. There are also other figures presented in the exhibition that are less known to the German and the international community. Characters as Mina and Kåge, Rut and Knut and Astrid the Fly whose adventures are not yet available in German translation. The goal of the exhibition is to show how there is no pre-determined pattern on how to be as a girl or a boy. 

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