Nordic Noir in Children's Crime

Nordic Noir in Children's Crime: from Tam Sventon to Salla Simukka

The Nordic detective story aimed at adults is a modern international success. However, acclaimed writers such as Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbø are all part of a long tradition. Written in the 1970’s, Sjöwall & Wahlöö’s crime novels have since given rise to an abundance of crime series and films in the same vein of social realism and social criticism, as well as inspired recent detective dramas like the Beck films and The Bridge.

The detective story has also blossomed within children’s and YA fiction in recent decades, resulting in successful exports such as Martin Widmark and Helena Willis’s The Whodunit Detective Agency series and Salla Simukka’s The Snow White Trilogy.

Against this background, the Nordic detective story written for children and youth raises interesting questions. How has the genre developed and diversified over time, from Tam Sventon and Bill Bergson to Salla Simukka’s dark stories? Can Nordic crime writers writing for a young audience be included in the international Nordic Noir success? To what extent are these books translated and do they sell? Moreover, can the tradition of social criticism characterizing many adult crime novels be traced in detective stories written for children and youth?

Interestingly, it sometimes proves more fruitful to talk about suspense plots rather than detective stories when it comes to children’s and YA literature. Works written for very young children often revolve around solving mysteries rather than crimes. Similarly, YA works tend to focus on self-understanding and existential questions rather than the exposure of a criminal, even when a crime has been committed. Genres are often mixed: the detective plot can for example be combined with fantasy or humour. When it comes to middle readers, the detective story is a dominating genre, presented in every conceivable form and style. It can be structured as a (potentially) never-ending series in the spirit of Enid Blyton – Mårten Sandén’s The Petrini Detectives is an example of this – or as a completed series, or (less commonly) as a single book.

Barnboken – Journal of Children’s Literature Research now welcomes articles on the topic “Nordic Noir in Children's Crime: from Tam Sventon to Salla Simukka”. The purpose of the topic is to identify, describe and analyse different detective and crime descriptions in children’s and YA fiction from different perspectives.

Deadline, abstracts: 1 December 2015

Please send a 300-word proposal to The following information should be included:

The title of the article, the name of the writer, affiliation and e-mail address.

Deadline, articles: 3 April 2016

The articles will be published in 2016. Articles submitted for consideration may not have been previously published or presented in any other context.

Texts are sent via e-mail to or via the login system on this website. See Author Guidelines for further information on submission details such as length.

Barnboken – Journal of Children’s Literature Research is published by The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books. All articles accepted have been peer reviewed by at least two peers and will be published online under an Open Access model. The main language of the journal is Swedish, but articles written in Danish, Norwegian and English are also welcome. We are especially interested in contributions related to Sweden or the Nordic countries.

The editorial committee consists of Professor Björn Sundmark, Malmö University, Sweden, Dr. Åsa Warnqvist, The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books, Sweden (Editor), and Associate professor Mia Österlund, Åbo Akademi University, Finland. Barnboken is published with financial support from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet).

A guide to our reference and note system can be found at the journal website.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Åsa Warnqvist
The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books
Odengatan 61
SE-113 22 Stockholm
Phone: +46 8 54 54 20 65