The “Mamma Moo” tale

Swedish author Jujja Wieslander.

Swedish author Jujja Wieslander.  

Children’s books author Jujja Wieslander, who was in Delhi this past week, in conversation with Bindu Shajan Perappadan.

For the world’s most extraordinary cow “Mamma Moo” it all began very simply. Every night Jujja and her late husband Tomas Wieslander would sit with a blank sheet of paper with their young children and spin stories.

Born from the many stories that managed to colour the blank pages during those sessions was an extraordinary cow which wanted to learn everything — “how to climb a tree, ride a bicycle, swing or build a tree house”.

This cow also had an extraordinary friend — the crow — and together since the early 1980s they have been entertaining millions of children and youngsters across the world, creating for them a world of “possibilities”.

“I have been asked this question often about how Mamma Moo was created,” said world famous Swedish children’s book writer Jujja, who was in Delhi this past week.

“Well this is how it started. When my children were small and it was bedtime, Tomas and I used to take two sheets of A4 paper and fold them in half, staple and clip and turn them into a small, blank book. Holding it in our hands, we asked the children: Well, what kind of story should we make tonight? And then the children took over. And it was through their stories and songs that we created together several charters and Mamma Moo is really a tribute to children’s inquisitive and sensible ways of trying to make sense of the world. However, what began as our way of understanding and entertaining our children became a professional venture,” she says.

At the end of the 1980s, the Wieslander couple were asked to make children’s radio series that was to be based their songs.

“Here we needed characters to talk between the songs and we had already made ‘My Little Crow Song’ and ‘Mamma Moo’. The songs were meant to help children and involve them in a world that was really their creation and inspired by them,” says the author and scriptwriter for the film “Mamma Moo & Crow”.

Children being an important part of the writer’s life also allowed her understand how creative they are if allowed to explore, imagine and discover.

“Through our association with children we learnt that play is an important form of learning. If the children have an opportunity to play they learn an unbelievable amount in their first years. Once they start school someone else takes over the learning process and the curriculum is based on what society deems important. We also realised the importance of listening to our children and being interested in what they think. Their songs and stories were almost always based on their joys, fears and aspirations,” she adds.

Meanwhile, in addition to the story of Mamma Moo, the writing couple also created the “The Day Ghost” and “Little Brother” books. Following her husband’s death in 1996, Jujja took a prolonged hiatus from writing, but in 2003 she came out with the book “Mammo Moo rides the slide”, which was then followed by more books.

Jujja and Tomas also wrote many popular children’s songs together, which have all been collected in “Mamma Moo: Songs for the whole body” and “My little crow song”. In 1993, they received the Expressen newspaper’s children’s book award Heffaklump, and in 2005 Jujja received the Astrid Lindgren Award.

Jujja’s children too haven’t remained untouched by her fame. “One day my daughter had gone out dancing with a boy, and when he found out that she was my daughter, he exclaimed ‘Oh my God! I danced with Mamma Moo’s daughter.’ We laughed about the incident. I feel thrilled that what started as a private sessions at home is now entertaining children all over the world.”

Though her stories are now being made into film, the writer says that “books are very important”.

“Films and movies are good, but it is when children read that they get new idea and a world of imagination and possibilities open up for them. Books give them the space to dream and imagine. Children should be encouraged to read.”

Now a grandmother, Jujja says that while her grandchildren love her books they are also huge Harry Potter fans. “My teenage granddaughter stood in line outside a book store all night to get the first copy of Harry Potter. I am glad that books interest them. While I have read only the first Harry Potter book, I understand that children face a very tough world and that these books give them a window that allows them to imagine and feel. It allows them to believe in fairies and possibilities.”

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