In 1966, one of Sweden’s most popular children’s writers, Jan Lööf, published Grandpa is a Pirate, an illustrated children’s book, which featured, among other characters, the wicked pirate Omar and the street peddler, Abdullah. The book has been a bestseller ever since, and has been translated into English (as My Grandpa is a Pirate), Spanish, French and other languages. Ten years ago, 100,000 copies of it were even distributed to the Swedish public with McDonald’s Happy Meals, as part of an initiative to support reading among children.
Ah, but those were the days of yesteryear! Now, fifty years later, the book is no longer tolerable. The now 76-year-old author told Swedish news outlets that his publisher recently said that unless he rewrites the book and changes the illustrations, it will be taken off the market. The publisher also threatened to withdraw another of his books unless it is redone: it features an illustration of a black jazz musician who sleeps with his sunglasses on.
Lööf’s publisher, the Swedish publishing giant Bonnier Carlsen, says that it has not yet made a final decision and that it only views the rewriting and re-illustrating of the books as “an option.” There is no doubt, however, that they consider the books in question extremely problematic.