• Happy birthday Alice Schertle (All You Need for a Snowman, Little Blue Truck), and Cheryl Willis Hudson (Hands Can).
  • It’s the birth date of Donald Carrick (1929-1989), The Wednesday Surprise, Patrick’s Dinosaurs.
  • In 1795 France adopts the metre (meter) as a basic measurement of length. Hence, it is Metric System Day.
  • Best birthday wishes to the World Health Organization (WHO), established by the United Nations in 1948. And, by chance, it happens to be World Health Organization Day. Read Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss and Peek-a Who? By Nina Laden.

This week, from April 8-10, marks the London Book Festival, a huge international gathering of publishers who exchange rights for books. At the end of March, children’s book publishers gathered in Bologna, Italy, for the Bologna Book Festival, where the Hans Christian Andersen Medal was announced.

In honor of international book exchange I’d like to look at a former Andersen Medal Winner, Maria Gripa. Gripa is one of Sweden’s most prolific writers for children, but is probably unknown to many Almanac readers. This month, New York Review is rereleasing her masterpiece The Glassblower’s Children, illustrated by her husband Harald Gripe. First published in 1964, The Glassblower’s Children, like many great foreign works for children, took a long time to arrive on American shores; it appeared in 1973 under the aegis of the Seymour Lawrence Press.

When I picked up The Glassblower’s Children after so many years, I was once again enchanted by Gripe’s ability to tell a mesmerizing story so simply and so well. In a book that conjures up Norse mythology and fairy tales, Gripe brings to life the world of Klas and Klara, the two children of Albert the Glassblower and his wife Sofie. Every autumn and spring Albert heads to market to sell his extraordinarily beautiful but impractical pieces. But at one fair, Klas and Klara catch the eye of the Lord and Lady of All Wishes Town, who have everything they want besides children. This sets a chain of events into motion that will keep readers turning the pages until the two young people are finally reunited with their parents. As the story moves along it explores some serious concepts, such as this insight into desire: “One almost always gets what one wishes–one just doesn’t know when or how–and that makes wishing so frightening. One must wish for what one is able to accept.”

Filled with great secondary characters, like Flutter Mildweather the fortuneteller and Wise Wit the one-eyed raven, and a brooding Kafkaesque atmosphere, The Glassblower’s Children will appeal to those readers, ages ten to fourteen, who enjoy reading invented fairy tales. For American readers it may bring to mind Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs or The Real Boy.

I am grateful that this international gem has now been made available to yet another generation of readers— in all its original glory.


Here’s a passage from The Glassblower’s Children:


People often have cats in the country as house pets. Or dogs. Flutter Midweather had a raven. Wise. Wise Wit was his name. It is not known how she got hold of him—whether she caught him herself, for instance—but she’d always had him, and he was a very remarkable creature.

He could talk. And he didn’t chatter just any old nonsense, either. He answered directly and very wisely—that is, if he felt like it. Sometimes he didn’t want to talk, for he could be quite temperamental. And sometimes he talked in riddles so that ordinary people couldn’t make any sense out of it—but Flutter understood everything.


Originally posted April 7, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: Folktale
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Glassblower's Children


  1. McCourt says:

    Recently, when I was looking over the names for nominees for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal and winners of the Astrid Lindgren Award, I was dismayed with the number of authors that I was not familiar with. There is such a wealth of international literature out there still to be discovered! Thank you for highlighting this title.

  2. G. Perry says:

    I have this ordered from the library and can’t wait.

    And I think an International version of this almanac is a fantastic idea.

    But then, I’m not the one that would have to do the work, but I’d sure help. Grin..

  3. Anne Ursu says:

    So…I think I would like this!

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