Cover image for A to Zåäö : playing with history at the American Swedish Institute
A to Zåäö : playing with history at the American Swedish Institute
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 23 cm.
Geographic Term:
A fun, whimsical, wide-ranging children's picture book, taking readers from A to Zåäö in the Swedish alphabet and through history via the joy of exploration and imagination. Each object--a chair, a fireplace, carved figures, all historical objects currently held at ASI--is paired with a Swedish verb (and it's translation) that represents how one might explore or use this object if imagination was the only limit. --


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A playful picture-book tour of the Swedish alphabet, in which curious characters explore the American Swedish Institute

A is for " Akta dig! Look out!" And when you do, you'll see the nyckelharpa , or keyed fiddle, that Axel's father made--which followed Axel from Sweden to America. You'll also find Axel, a snappy dresser, with his umbrella and bowler hat. He's one of the inquisitive characters who will accompany you on these pages, guiding you through the twenty-nine letters of the Swedish alphabet. Each letter does something exciting. C is " Cirkulera! Go round and round!" And for D, " Dansa! Dance!"

This fun introduction to the Swedish alphabet, a romp from A to Z (and then Å to Ä to Ö), is also a delightful tour of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, a cultural center alive with stories past and present. Artifacts from the museum's collection are charmingly rendered in watercolor and animated by whimsical pen-and-ink characters that draw readers from page to page. Tara Sweeney and Nate Christopherson, a mother and son collaborative team, create magical realism in A to Zåäö , their first picture book. Their irreverent curiosity delights and begs a timeless question-- how can exploration and discovery help us grow?

Author Notes

Award-winning artist, illustrator, and author Tara Sweeney received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant to co-illustrate and author A to Zåäö with her son, Nate Christopherson. She is author of Close to Home: A Minnesota Year in Sketches , a collection of illustrated creative nonfiction. She is professor emeritus at Augsburg University, where she taught drawing and painting for twenty-five years.

Nate Christopherson is a special education teacher and freelance illustrator. He created art for Amy Leach's Things That Are and a special edition of Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass for the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. He received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant to illustrate The Island , an award-winning limited-edition collaborative artist book. Sweeney and Christopherson both live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Reviews 1

Kirkus Review

In this longer-than-usual picture book, the Swedish alphabet is paired with illustrations of selected objects in the collection of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.The concept is ambitious: to give readers a taste of the Swedish language, culture, and migration story to America by organizing simple Swedish words in alphabetical order (with their English translations but no pronunciation guide) and pairing them with paintings of objects displayed in the Turnblad Mansion, the former residence of 19th-century Swedish immigrants and ASI founders Swan and Christina Turnblad. Following this alphabet section, the book becomes an exploration of history, presenting photos of the previously illustrated objects and relaying stories of their provenance alongside sidebars of the people connected with them. While the watercolor illustrations are gorgeous, masterfully imbuing delicate light and shadow, and the historical information is fascinating, the project bogs down in attempting too many connections. The Swedish word accompanying the object illustration is often not the object's name (as readers may logically expect) but rather a simple action word (or words) that begins with the necessary alphabet letter. Trying to connect the word and the illustration, small pen-and-ink figures, related "historically or viaimagination" to the object, are drawn on and around the watercolor (and too often in the gutter). It's a neat concept, but it becomes confusing and, since the figures are cumulative, crowded.This ambitious project delivers fascinating history and beautiful illustrations but attempts too many creative connections. (authors' notes) (Informational picture book. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.