July 22nd, 2009

A Kid on Her Own in Stockholm

While Brent is off slaving away at infrastructure, I get to go do all the things he’s not particularly interested in doing here in Stockholm. So I began the day at Junibacken, which is a Swedish children’s literature museum. Naturally, it emphasizes the work of Astrid Lindgren, but there was also Tove Jansson and Maj Lindman and Elsa Beskow. I admit the place is designed for people five and under. I had a fabulous time there. There is a big room full of houses from various stories with opportunities to play in them and on them and around them. The details are all done right. It is utterly charming. There are dress-ups and props. The children around me zoomed in and out of doors and worked their imaginations flying the wooden biplane in the center.

Because I was too big to fit in the houses and generally unwilling to run over small children to play myself, I moved fairly quickly along to the train ride. It isn’t exactly a train, but calling it one makes as much sense as anything else. One of my favorite things in Disneyland is the Storybook Cruise, in part because it is less plastic than many other things there. This ride was similar in that it toured the worlds of various books, but much more magical. I admit that had I really been five, some of it would have scared the pants off me, but sometimes being a grown-up has advantages. The care taken to build detailed scenes enchanted me. The train ran along past several pastoral stories, then took to the air to explore a story about an inventor who flies over Stockholm. I shrank down with other characters to live in a flat rented from a rat. I camped with robbers. I even fought a dragon.

After the train, I visited Pippi Longstocking’s house and saw more climbing and jumping and imagining going on all around me. The last exhibit was the fairy-like world of Elsa Beskow, complete with green shag grass, giant fruits, and an acorn house. Even better, I left the museum through the bookstore.

At the Nordiska Museet, I saw dollhouses. Some of them were extremely elaborate and well-furnished. Others looked loved. I envied the child whose father owned the toy store; she had the largest family of dolls living in her house. But I learned that many of the older dollhouses were not to be played with. They were essentially locking glass-fronted cabinets that children could look at but not touch. Sigh.

Then I visited the National Museum, where I saw many works by Carl Larsson, who, among many other works, illustrated books for children and used his own eight children as models.

And now I am back at the hotel, ready for a nap like a good little girl whose feet hurt.