Gunilla Bergström (1942 – 2021) is the beloved creator of Alfie Atkins, one of the most popular and timeless picture book characters in Swedish history.
Alfie Atkins is no hero; in fact, some would even call him a bit of a coward. However, Alfie’s cowardice might be exactly why he has such a strong appeal to so many children and adults – Alfie Atkins is just like us. From the publication of her first Alfie book, author Gunilla Bergström broke with the tradition of only writing cutesy and picturesque children’s books characters, and instead composed stories about real people who live in a typical flat, in an urban high-rise block.
The stories about Alfie deal with everyday emotions and conflicts that all children recognise. Goodnight Alfie Atkins (1972), the first in the series, has become a classic that generations of children know almost by heart. In this book, Alfie draws out the night-time routine to such an extent that his father falls asleep from sheer exhaustion right on the floor. The subjects of the other books range from the adult obsession with being on time, to the fear of ghosts, as well as dilemmas with both friends and adults.
Gunilla Bergström’s illustrations in felt-tip pen, acrylic and even scraps of newsprint and wallpaper, have a life of their own. She has written over forty books translated into more than thirty languages and has won the Astrid Lindgren Prize, the medal Illis Quorum Meruere Labores, from the Swedish Government (2012) and numerous other awards.