Ansichten und Aussichten- Festschrift für Hans-Heino Ewers
Edited By Gabriele von Glasenapp, Ute Dettmar and Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff
The Royal Canon: Maria Nikolajeva
In 2012, when a baby was born into the Royal family of Sweden, the Swedish Parliament and Government gave her a christening present of two hundred children’s books in a specially designed book shelf. The selection was made by the Director of the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books and an elementary school principal, authorities hard to interrogate. Whether the little princess Estelle will indeed benefit from this gift or whether her parents will choose different reading matter for her, is of little consequence. However, the list, published in Swedish newspapers, will doubtless guide other Swedish parents in providing their progeny with suitable books. Overnight, and based on just two persons’ criteria, a national canon was established.
The list is organised into book categories: „Picturebooks“, „Read-aloud books“, „Classics“, „Nonfiction“, „Songs, rhymes and verse“, „Collections, anthologies, fairy tales“, „Picturebooks for younger children“, and „Translated books“. Already this bizarre classification raises some issues. The last category, „Translated books“, containing a fourth of the two hundred, suggests that the selection strongly favours Swedish books. This is not uncommon in national canon formation when books from own country are given priority, and Sweden is in this respect far more generous than any English-speaking nation. It is natural that Swedish children should be encouraged to read Swedish books.
The distinction between „picturebooks“ and „picturebooks for younger children“ is less justifyable: how young is a „younger child“, and why is agebased division of interest at all? Yet this division reflects a frequent attitude...