Beskow, Elsa (1874–1953)

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Beskow, Elsa (1874–1953)

Swedish author and illustrator of children's books. Born Elsa Maartman on February 11, 1874, in Stockholm, Sweden; died in 1953; daughter and one of six children of Bernt (a businessman) and Augusta (Fahlstedt) Maartman; attended Stockholm Technical School (now National College of Art, Craft, and Design); married Fredrik Natanael Beskow (a minister and headmaster), in 1892 or 1897; children: six sons.

Selected writings—all children's books; all self-illustrated:

Tant Grroen, Tant Brun, och Tant Gredelin (1924, published in America as Aunt Green, Aunt Brown, and Aunt Lavender, 1928); Pelle's New Suit (translated from the Swedish by M. Woodburn, 1929); Aunt Brown's Birthday (1930); The Tale of the Wee Little Old Woman (translated from the Swedish by Marion Woodburn, 1930); Peter's Voyage (translated from the Swedish by Rita Scherman, 1931); Buddy's Adventures in the Blueberry Patch (translated from the Swedish by Siri Andrews, 1931); The Adventures of Peter and Lotta (1931); Elf Children of the Woods (translated from the Swedish by Zita Beskow, 1932).

Elsa Beskow said that her future was planned at the age of seven, when she made up her mind to "write and draw fairy-tale books." Between the years 1897 and 1952, she wrote and illustrated thirty-three books and eight collections of fairy tales. Through the years, her books have sold over three million copies in Sweden and have been translated into many languages. Beskow's stories have been praised for their insight into a child's perspective and for the accuracy and fine detail of their illustrations. Mary Oervig in Top of the News commented, "It is clearly seen how deeply Elsa Beskow understood children and with what genuine simplicity she talked to them."

Beskow's recollections of her own childhood, with summers spent at an idyllic lake-side country estate, among her "happy flock" of brothers and sisters, might have been torn from a page in one of her books. At an early age, she developed a passion for drawing and painting, as well as an enthusiasm for reading and making up fairy tales. By the age of 15, she was off to study at the Technical School in Sweden. Four years later, she abandoned her education when she became engaged to a young artist and theologian, and took a job as a technical teacher. By the time she married, Beskow had completed a series of painting books for children and her first storybook The Wee Little Old Woman, published in 1892. She produced books from that time on, using her husband as an advisor, and her six sons as models and critics.

During her 50-year career, Beskow won a number of awards, including the Swedish Library Association, Nils Holgersson Plaque, in 1952. After her death in 1953, the Elsa Beskow Award for best Swedish picture book illustrator was established in her honor. The first recipient of the plaque was Tove Jansson in 1958.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts.