Viveka Sjögren

Zackarias Bergsteinsson
Viveka Sjögren: Någons bror. Picture book, Vombat förlag, 2023. Nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize.


“And the balconies are never as cold as when the blue light is on 
And mothers are never so sad as when they stand there freezing 
When someone has shot someone’s brother 
When someone’s brother is no longer allowed to grow up” 

In the picture book Någons bror (“Someone’s brother”, not translated into English) Viveka Sjögren describes a pale pink warmth in the pitch-black darkness, which is lit only by the blue lights that bounce off the buildings’ walls when yet another young person’s life has been taken too early. Many are children and young people who, in one way or another, are affected by the ruthlessness of gang violence.  


It takes courage to produce a picture book for children about a subject with so many lows, so much violence, and so much sorrow as caused by the gang shootings of our time. Yet Viveka Sjögren has this courage in spades. Sjögren also demonstrates finesse and a steady pen, which are needed in addition to courage. With poetic language, Sjögren takes the reader by the hand and walks together with them through tears, fears, but also the actions that have become like rituals. To gather in the square, to draw a drawing, and to lay down a crocheted ribbon.  


But it’s not just the text and the topic that Sjögren chooses to address that stand out, and the images capture the reader’s attention immediately. Together with the children in fifth grade at Fittjaskolan in Stockholm, Viveka Sjögren has created the book’s almost obtrusive images. The children have sent in their pictures, which Sjögren has used to create the illustrations that meet the reader. Eyes with big tears rolling down the cheeks, well-known landmarks like McDonald’s, police cars, high-rise buildings, helicopters. There’s space for everything, and everything is seen. The dirty, the sad, the hard, but also the hopeful, the longing for something different, the different ending, maybe even the new beginning. The pictures are dark and intense, despite or perhaps simply thanks to their obviously naïve illustrations. With her efforts to combine the children’s drawings with her own illustrations, Sjögren has succeeded in creating art on each page, which contributes to the book’s originality. 


Although it may seem that a children’s book about shootings shouldn’t work, Viveka Sjögren demonstrates that it’s possible to rely on a child’s ability to grasp and process difficult topics, as long as the craft is skilfully executed. And this is something that Sjögren clearly demonstrates in Någons bror.  


Viveka Sjögren (born in 1966) is a multi-award winning author who has been nominated for awards including the August Prize for the youth novel I den tysta minuten mellan in 2011, and won the Elsa Beskow plaque for best picture book of the year 2016 for Om du skulle fråga Micha.  


In addition to her own works, Sjögren has also chaired the international council of Författarförbundet. She has also sat on the boards of the Baltic Writers’ Council and the European Writers’ Council, EWC.