I’m ashamed to say that I never read, or watched, Pippi Långstrump (or Pippi Longstocking, as she would be in the UK) when I grew up; what were my parents thinking? Thankfully, I got to discover them at the same time as my daughter and those enchanting stories now form part of childhood for me, even if it wasn’t my own.
My daughter is lucky to be born in Sweden – there’s a wealth of good national children’s literature, besides Sweden’s most famous storyteller, Astrid Lindgren. I have read through Sven Nordqvist’s ‘Pettson och Findus’ stories and chuckled over Gunilla Bergström’s ‘Alfons Åberg‘ everyday adventures. One of our favourite parks in the North is ‘Mulle Meck Park’, which introduced me to yet another wonderful character. I’m ashamed to say it was McDonald’s in Sweden who introduced me to Mamma Mu, as they gave them away with a Happy Meal (smart move). Reading these books have helped my Swedish no end, but my daughter needs more persuasion to dip into them. And that’s why I’m thankful for Junibacken, where all these characters and more, come to life.
Junibacken is an indoor fantasy world, where there are regular shows performed throughout the day. These are a highlight for me; the staff perform the different characters with so much fun and feeling that the children are entranced. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen over 100 children all singing ‘Imse, Wimse, Spindel, WOW!!’.
A different performance takes place via the Sagotåget, the Story Train, a beautifully narrated (with a choice of 12 different languages) ride through carefully constructed scenes with some uneasy moments; Astrid Lindgren doesn’t shirk from life and death and her work is the richer for it. The Story Train stops at Villekulle, a life-sized model of Pippi’s house, where children can pretend to be the strongest girl herself as well as ride her famous horse and take the slide out of her house.
You can get more of that indoor playground feel at Skrot, (Scrap) designed by Jan Lööf, another famous children’s writer and illustrator. It’s unfair to call Skrot an indoor playground. My daughter loves those too, but there’s no comparing Junibacken to those soft play, ball-crawl filled dens with primary coloured slides. Skrot is based on some wonderful books and they are reflected in the fantasy land that includes a giant monkey whose head is a control centre, a plane for children to ride, a hot dog stand where little ones can pretend to be your vendor for the day and many more exhibits to play with. It’s a place where imagination is allowed to run wild.
Imagination forms the heartland of Junibacken; imagination and books. Junibacken vill att barn ska läsa böcker, the site boldly states and there is indeed a wonderful bookstore, where Swedish children’s literature is available in over 30 different languages . But what they’ve created at Junibacken is one living book, so that your child can experience reading (that most solitary habit) in all dimensions and with other people. It’s a fantastic aim and a successful one for this family.
Theatre Shows at Junibacken
Full Disclosure: Just so’s you know, no-one’s paid me anything to write this article; I do genuinely love Junibacken 😉
Article: Farrah Gillani
All photos taken with kind consent from the Junibacken website