Max Lundgren and the Development of Children’s Rights in Swedish Children’s Literature around ’68

Olle Widhe


The purpose of this article is to explore the relationship between left-wing children’s literature and the concept of children and children’s rights in Sweden around ’68. The main focus is on the picture book Sagan om Lotta från Dösjöbro (1969) [The Fairy tale of Lotta from Dösjöbro], by the Swedish children’s book author Max Lundgren (1937–2005) and the illustrator Fibben Hald (1933–). This picture book is analysed against the backdrop of the debate about state-funded picture books that Max Lundgren prompted shortly after its publication. Taking my cue from Kimberley Reynolds’s Radical Children’s literature (2007), I argue that the verbal and the visual in radical picture books of this kind can be said to stimulate aesthetic and social innovation, and thus pave the way for the transformation of culture and concepts such as childhood, children’s subjectivity and children’s rights. Portrayals of power relations between children and adults in children’s literature can therefore be said to generate social norms when it comes to interaction between adults and children; and these norms are of considerable importance for the development of a children’s rights discourse. This seems to be especially true regarding the picture book, because adults and children tend as a rule to read picture books, and look at the pictures therein, together.

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