Sensuality, Sensibility, Sexuality

Sensuality, sensibility and sexuality may not be words we normally associate with Nordic children’s and YA literature. However, a closer examination reveals that this literature, in everything from picturebooks to YA novels, repeatedly returns to depictions of sensuality or sexuality, as though intimate stories and the cartography of feelings belonged to the core of children’s fiction. Openness in terms of nudity and sexuality is also associated with the idea of the Nordic. We often hear of books being censored when introduced to an international market. For example, the boy Garmann who is not allowed to pee outdoors in Stian Hole’s picturebook Garmann’s Summer (2006).

Just like the instructive 1970’s picturebooks explaining bodily functions, Stina Wirsén’s inclusion of adult intercourse in her baby book Vem sover inte? (“Who Can’t Sleep?”, 2009) reflects a modern approach to children and childhood in relation to sensibility and sexuality. Naturally, sexuality is an especially popular topic in the YA novel, where Hans-Eric Hellberg’s Kram (“Hug”) series has been succeeded by Mårten Melin and Katerina Janouch. Their works are, however, mild compared to Maria Marcus’s Alle tiders forår! (“What A Spring!”, 1977), where Ulla masturbates using a vibrator and even teaches her mother how to use one.

While today’s YA novel is just as open-minded and charged in its sex depictions as the YA novels of the 1970’s, it also emphasizes sensuality and touch. When it comes to younger children’s sexuality, the lines are often stricter. In stories written for younger children, sexuality is often interpreted in terms of sensations and sensibility.

In Proggiga barnböcker (“Progg Children’s Books”, 2010), Kalle Lind draws attention to the Swedish children’s book of the 1970’s and its central role in the sexual revolution. However, there are still questions left to discuss. How does the pedophile debate of the 1980’s affect the limits of the children’s book in terms of body and sensation? Is the children’s book liberated or prudish? Have instructive films about vaginas and penises influenced how children’s books depict and describe children’s bodies?

World Health Organization (WHO) considers sexuality an integral part of being human, “a basic need and an aspect of being human inseparable from other life aspects”. WHO stresses that this does not only concern men and women, but also children. Does the Nordic children’s book reflect a similar notion? Or does it perhaps convey contrasting views? And where is the sensuality in children’s books?

Barnboken – Journal of Children’s Literature Research welcomes articles on the topic “Sensuality, Sensibility and Sexuality”. The intention is to examine Nordic children’s and YA writers’ approach to issues related to this topic.

Deadline, abstracts: 22 Maj 2017

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: 31 Maj 2017

The articles will be published in 2017. 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:
Åsa Warnqvist
The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books
Odengatan 61
SE-113 22 Stockholm
Phone: + 46 8 54 54 20 65.