Students meet Banco del Libro at the House of Culture

The time had come for the Children’s Meeting with Banco del Libro. The Mexican Wave and jungle roars greeted the five women from Venezuela as they entered the auditorium in Stockholm's Kulturhuset. Ronia's spring scream was like a gentle breeze by comparison with the rousing welcome given to the visitors by the children and young people who had been invited in from various schools. They'd read up on the Banco del Libro and its work and had lots of questions. But first there was entertainment.

The conférencier was Dan Höjer, who's good at keeping things going with a swing. He announced that the theme of the day was LOVE and in a duet with Katti Hoflin, head of Kulturhuset’s Kids’ Rooms, sang a song in honour of Astrid Lindgren that he’d written himself – “Love is as big as a wild planet. Love is as hot as an orange.”

He told us that he'd once talked about love with Astrid Lindgren but that she had told him that when she was a child she was more interested in fighting.

"I liked fighting when I was little. Every now and then my best friend and I liked to go out and beat up a few of the younger lads just to have something to do.” At least that's what Dan told us that she'd said, raising a loud chuckle from the audience, of course. The five ladies from Venezuela laughed, too – once the interpreter had told them what Dan had said.

The Liberal Party's Cecilia Wikström took a more serious approach and talked about how much “The Brothers Lionheart” means for sick children who know they will soon die. In her view, she said, exploring other worlds, as one can in books, is a matter of life and death, adding that she believes that Astrid is about as close to an angel as you can get.

Then children from the Stockholm City School of Arts, clad in hooded black capes, made a dramatic entry and took over the stage. Two children became a mule, and Pippi Longstocking suddenly jumped out from under one of the capes, bringing books for the Venezuelan children high up in the faraway mountains.

Once all the capes had come off, the reading children had been introduced to Kling and Klang, Ronia, Snow White, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, Robin Hood and several other familiar characters from the world of children’s literature. It was lots of fun, imaginative and a brilliant performance all round!

After a great rendering by Helen Sjöholm of Astrid Lindgren’s “Bom Sicka Bom” – (“More! More!” shout the audience) – it’s time for the children to ask a few questions. They ask the women from Banco del Libro about their favourite books and whether they lend the children many books by Astrid Lindgren. Whether they themselves have children and whether the children like reading. What are the worst and the best things that have happened to the Banco del Libro, and what's the best thing about children?

Among the laureates' favourite books are Maurice Sendak's “Where the Wild Things Are”. Astrid Lindgren's books are available in Spanish but are not extensively read in Venezuela. Although, in the future, that's going to change! Everyone's children have loved reading. And the worst thing that's happened was the flooding a couple of years back, when whole villages were destroyed and many families lost their homes. The best thing was that the Banco del Libro was able to bring them books and read aloud to the children, which brought them some comfort and helped them to sleep and regain their strength, to start their lives again.

And the best thing about children is seeing them play, dance about, sing, explore the world and grow a little bigger each day!

There were many more questions, but our time was up. Then the entire audience joined in a spontaneous chant – Banco del Libro, Banco del Libro, Banco del Libro!

The women from Banco del Libro looked immensely proud and honoured.