The Swedish team of Olof & Lena Landstrom have made some of the finest, fuzziest, sweetest kids books in recent years. Steeped in innocence and a certain oddball sense of humor, the Landstrom's stories are deceptively simple, and tend to leave a feeling of something left unsaid, a pleasant sensation of waiting for the other shoe to drop... It never does, though, so your only option is to read the books again, and try and figure out why they are so enchanting. There are three main series in the Landstrom ouvre: the "Will" books tell short, slice-of-life stories seen from the perspective of a young boy (about five years old?) who lives (apparently alone) with his mother. The clean, precise, European school artwork is a big part of the appeal -- it's like Tin Tin for toddlers. "Boo And Baa" are a pair of anthropomorphic sheep who live together in a little country house. Siblings? Married? Hard to tell; doesn't matter. They have simple adventures together that have a blank, haiku-like Zen feel to them, and they are quite addictive. Lena Landstrom has crafted the third series by herself, a continuing story of a village of hippopotami that lead a bucolic life on the shores of some nameless African river. The Landstroms have a very odd and distinctive sense of humor... it may not be for everyone, but folks who like them, like them a lot. Here's a quick look at some of their work.






Books by Olof & Lena Landstrom

"Will Goes To The Beach"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1993)

Will and his mother pack up and ride their bikes down to the beach. When it starts to rain, all the other people run away, but Mama decides to stay -- you're swimming anyway, what difference does getting wet make? Will comes in, too, and when they're done wading, they have a little picnic. Another nice slice-of-life adventure in this sweet, simple series. (B+)


"Will Goes To The Post Office"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1993)

Mama sends Will down to the Post Office to pick up a parcel... As he heads downtown, other kids join in -- good thing, too, since the package turns out to be a giant box... with a cool surprise inside! Another great, low-key childs' eye view of the world. (B+)


"Will's New Cap"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1993)

(-)


"Will Gets A Haircut"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1993)

(-)


"Boo And Baa Get Wet"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1999)

It was a dark and stormy night, and Boo and Baa had left their croquet set out on the lawn... When the bundle up and go out to pack it up, they get spooked by lightning and... ghosts?? Back inside, safe and warm, they curl up in their bunk beds and go back to sleep. Another deliciously oddball outing from these two loopy lambs... If you like the other B&B books, this one's a winner, too. (B)


"Boo And Baa In The Woods"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 2000)

(-)


"Boo And Baa In Windy Weather"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1999)

(-)


"Boo And Baa At Sea"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1997)

(-)


"Boo And Baa In A Party Mood"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1999)

(-)


"Boo And Baa On A Cleaning Spree"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1997)

When Boo and Baa decide that their house is just too messy, they go on a cleaning spree, which quickly takes a comedic turn... A sock gets sucked into the vacuum cleaner, and the only thing B&B can think to do is to tear the dust bag open to find it... Naturally, it spews dust all over the place, and cakes our heros from head to hoof. Things work out okay, though. One of the fastest moving and funniest of the Boo and Baa books... recommended! (A)


"The Little Hippos' Adventure"
Written by Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 2002)

Although it was the first to be published in the USA, as far as I can tell this is actually the third of the Hippo books. In this story, the little hippos are restless and want to go swimming over at the Tall Cliff, which is forbidden to them, because they are too young to dive off it. One day the old hippo who is babysitting them dozes off, and they go scampering through the scary jungle towards Tall Cliff. When they get there, they decide it actually is too tall to dive off of, but they find a ledge a little lower down, and dive off of that instead. They swim and have fun, then head back up the river for home, feeling their oats and chattering excitedly. They don't see a big crocodile swimming behind them, but Mrs. Hippopotamus does, and she chases it away, threatening to kill it if it returns. The plot is a little scary, and the graphic treat of violence ("") is kind of intense. I wouldn't recommend this one for very young children. (B-)


"The New Hippos"
Written by Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 2003)

Two newcomers to the hippo village get a mildly frosty reception... The little hippos won't let the new kid play with them, until he shows them how to do triple somersaults off the high dive... Meanwhile his mom sets up house and prompts a few derisive clucks because she thatches her hut from side to side and not up-and-down, like the locals. But Mrs. Hippopotamus welcomes her and shares her tool kid and soon they fit in with all the others. Kooky, but compelling. (B)


"A Hippo's Tale"
Written by Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 2007)

Mrs. Hippopotamus likes her privacy and one day she gets a little grumpy when she realizes the monkeys and other animals in the jungle can see her when she's taking a dip in the river, so she decides to build herself a bathhouse. However, the younger hippos soon take it over and turn it into a diving board... Everything turns out fine, though: once everyone goes swimming at Mrs. H's private beach, the shore in front of the village is left vacant, and provides her with all the privacy she needs. Did I mention before that Lena Landstrom has an odd sense of humor? Nice, but nicer if you've already read the other books in this series. (B)


"Four Hens And A Rooster"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 2005)

(-)


"Boo And Baa Have Company"
Written by Lena & Olof Landstrom
Illustrated by Lena & Olof Landstrom
(Farrar Straus & Giroux/Raben & Sjogren Books, 2006)

This was the first "Boo and Baa" book we'd seen, but it soon became a favorite around our house. Here, Boo and Baa are out doing some yardwork when a little black-and-white cat gets stuck in a tree, and when they try to get it down, Boo winds up a tree himself. The most captivating thing about these books is the kooky sense of humor: it's very, very subtle, but very, very sweet. Also, for those of us looking for nonviolent entertainment that isn't completely bland, this is a wonderful option. This is best for the littlest readers, but parents will appreciate the nuances of Landstrom's artwork, and the gentle, calming vibe of the story. Recommended. (B+)




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