This is how we made the book

1. Lena Anderson and Christina Björk became friends in 1958 while working for the same fashion magazine. Some years later they began creating books in their own studio, a former tobacco shop.

3. Lena’s daughter Nicolina was their model. She loved sowing pits and seeds in pots.

5. A book publisher asked us if we could do a book about Linnea.
The result was ”Linnea’s Windowsill Garden”, published in 1978. In
this book we let Linnea’s neighbour, Mr. Bloom, help her planting.

7. That book was about Claude Monet’s paintings, his family and his garden. It said that the garden in Giverny still existed and was now a museum for everyone to visit.

9. But just imagine getting to work with Monet during our work hours… ”Wouldn’t Linnea enjoy visiting Monet’s garden?” said Lena. ”Yes, but how?” said Christina. ”Couldn’t Mr. Bloom take her there?” said Lena.

11. In Paris we first visited the museums with Claude Monet’s paintings. Then we took the train to the town of Vernon. There we rented bicycles and biked to Giverny.

13. A friendly man greeted us in the garden. His name was Jean-Marie Toulgouat, and he was the great-grandchild of Monet’s wife Alice. We told him we wanted to make a children’s book about Monet’s garden. “That’s wonderful,” he said. “There aren’t any books like that for children”.

15. Here we are looking really happy because we’ve found out that we need to return to Paris in order to stay in the right hotel.

17. It took several years to finish the book. Christina needed to study French so that she could read all the books about Monet.

19. This is how Lena’s trash basket looked. We didn’t dare to tell our publisher what we were working with, because back then there were no children’s books about art.

21. We had taken a lot of photos. This is our picnic. Lena representing Linnea and Christina representing Mr.Bloom.

23. Pictures can look many different ways. Should the page look like this…

25. Or maybe a picture from inside the hotel, with Linnea in the doorway? It isn’t easy to choose which is the best.

27. We made a “pretend-book”, the same size as the real one would be, with sketches in colour and photos pasted into it. It’s called a dummy. This is how we wanted two of the pages to look.

29. In 1985 the book was published, with a big photo of Monet on the cover. “It’s impossible to sell such a brownish children’s book,” said the foreign publishers. The book soon got a new cover.

31. And we get letters from children all over the world who have read the book. Sometimes with pretty drawings or written with letters we can’t read. Let’s hope they’re saying they like the book.

2. In 1976, when Christina was the editor of a children´s page in a newspaper she and Lena invented a girl named Linnea, who planted different things every Sunday.

4. Christina also made TV-programmes about Nicolina’s planting.
She was seven years old at that time.

6. In 1980 Christina saw a big, terrific exhibition in Paris of Claude Monet’s paintings, which included the Japanese bridge pictured above. She bought a beautiful book about Monet to show Lena.

8. Claude Monet was Lena’s favourite painter as well. We only got to look through the Monet book during lunch breaks, because we had to get Linnea’s Almanac finished.

10. And so he did. But we needed to go there as well. We applied for a travel scholarship from the Swedish Writers Union. And hurrah! We got it! So in 1982 we went to Paris, and of course Nicolina came with us.

12. Look, we’re standing on the Japanese bridge! Nicolina took this picture. We got permission to visit the garden even when it was closed.

14. We also told Jean-Marie that we’d read an amazing book about Monet, and, believe it or not, his wife was the one who wrote it! Maybe that’s why he invited us to visit his home. He showed us boxes of family photos that he kept under the sofa. Some of the photos he allowed us to publish in our book.

16. It´s called Hotel Esmeralda. We went back to Paris again and stayed there. We made many trips back there and to the garden.

18. Lena had to draw and re-draw each picture. She made a huge number of rough drafts before she was finally satisfied.

20. We made a layout and a planning sheet with all the pages as small squares. Lena has filled them in with pictures and text markings. We learned to do that when working for the magazine.

22. This is how the pages finally looked in the book. Christina had re-written the text many, many times before she got it just right.

24. …or like this, outside the Hotel Esmeralda with the cats in the window?

26. This is how it finally looks in the book. (You can’t imagine how many texts and pictures we tossed out before we were satisfied).

28. When we were finally satisfied, we showed it to Marianne Eriksson, our publisher. At first she said: ”Oh my, what a strange children’s book!” But then she said yes to it. ”Rather sweet, actually.
30. Oddly enough, that strange children’s book was very easy to sell in Sweden and in other countries as well. Many children wanted it. It even won prizes from time to time.

32. Many children have even travelled in Linnea’s footsteps to Paris and to Giverny. Nicolina has two daughters, Elsa and Molly, who have been there as well. Here they are on the nasturtium path.