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Early drawings made by Ilon Wikland
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Early iLON

When I first arrived in Sweden 1944, I was invited to study at the School for Books and Advertising Art, where the legendary Akke Kumlien was the principal. During two terms I learned to create texts, letters, typology, cover pictures and illustrations. I had great fun at this school.


I felt that I was at just the right place and that there was a world of opportunities open to me. My first place of work after graduation was at the Princess Magazine, where I texted price tags. In the evenings I went to an Estonian evening school. I soon discovered, that I could not manage to work in the daytime and study in the evenings. Work was more important to me and that was the reason why I decided to stop studying and start working instead.


In 1947 I got a job at a bookbinder's. I wanted to learn everything about how to make a book. As an apprentice at Lundins Bookbinder's I took part in most aspects of the work. There I met a colleague, a German Jewess, who had been imprisoned in a concentration camp during the Second World War. She opened my eyes to the dreadful anti-Semitism.


Later that year I got a job doing decorations at the MEA department store. I also worked at the publishers Åhlén & Åkerlund at the Film Journal and at the Weekly Review (Veckojournalen), doing layout. It was a time full of joy. I stayed there until 1953, when my first daughter was born. After that I stayed at home as a housewife for some time but then decided to apply for a job as an illustrator at a publisher's. I took my daughter and some samples of my work with me and went to Raben & Sjögren. There I met Astrid Lindgren for the first time. I showed her my drawings and asked for a job of any kind, as long as I was allowed to draw. Astrid had just finished writing Mio, my Son and she gave me a couple of chapters to illustrate. Happily I went home and made my illustrations- and I got the job! That was the first book I illustrated for Astrid Lindgren.