Scandinavian Children's Books Get Away With Way More Sex and Violence

Illustration for article titled Scandinavian Children's Books Get Away With Way More Sex and Violence

Scandinavians are just a lot more relaxed about certain things. Like, one popular Norwegian book for eight-year-olds includes lessons on how to masturbate. Author Ingelin Røssland, writing in the Guardian, explains just how far children’s and young-adult titles can go in Scandinavia.


Røssland writes:

Traditionally, Scandinavian authors take a child’s world very seriously. Think of Swedish author (and creator of Pippi Longstocking) Astrid Lindgren, one of our most important voices, who never let her young readers down. Some of the things she wrote were pretty dark and serious, and I’m probably not the only one who cried when reading some of her books. I’m very grateful to her and those other writers who dared to challenge what people thought books for children and youth ought to be about. ...

In light of this tradition, it was fairly easy to keep the promise I made to myself when I started to write books; always to respect my young reader’s ability to think for her/himself, not to be afraid and never avoid writing about subjects that could be painful, embarrassing or potentially offensive.... When I met French kids to talk about my novel Angel Face, the first book about my female action hero Engel Winge, some of the teachers would not let the kids read the book because it was deemed inappropriate - the language is very explicit. A whole class didn’t turn up because the teacher stopped them; nice girls are not supposed to talk and act like Engel Winge.

But the tolerance for adult subjects (and dark themes) in children’s books doesn’t mean a lack of respect for children’s and young-adult literature—in fact, Røssland says that YA authors are highly respected in Scandinavia, and you can make a decent living at it even if your books aren’t bestsellers. Also, the top authors in Scandinavian countries regularly write YA titles.

The whole article is worth checking out. [Guardian]

Contact the author at and follow her on Twitter @CharlieJane. Top image: Minus Me by Ingelin Røssland


I generally shy away from YA fiction, because I’m “too old,” but since I’ve been teaching myself Danish and Swedish (with Norwegian on my shortlist!), I know YA can be quite accessible for language learners. Does anyone from Scandinavia have any YA reading suggestions that would be fairly pleasurable to read for an adult reader? This article has me intrigued...tak takk tack! ;)