Thomas Tidholm is a Swedish photographer, poet, playwright and writer. He and Anna-Clara Tidholm have together created a string of awardwinning books for children since the early 1980s. Anna-Clara Tidholm is one of Sweden’s leading children’s book authors and illustrators with a varied and rich bibliography. Her prizes include the Elsa Beskow plaque, German Youth Literature Prize, Astrid Lindgren prize and August prize.
Can you tell us about which themes in To the Ice are the most important for both of you?
We wanted to expose the children in the story to real hardships and dangers, the same ones faced by polar explorers in historical times. Some important themes were endurance, patience, the hope for survival and rescue. Solving practical problems, staying warm. The realization that in the end, everything comes down to your own initiative.
Could you explain why this adventure story was set in an ice world?
The reason it is about the polar regions is simply because we’ve been fascinated by such places over the years, reading everything we’ve come across about travel and expeditions. We always travel north in Sweden. We’ve been to the Arctic, the North Cape, Tromsø, Greenland… Why? There is something there.
To the Ice is dedicated to polar explorers Fridtjof Nansen and Ernest Shackleton. How did they inspire the adventures of Jack, Max and Ida?
Nansen and Shackleton inspired us in the beginning. The children were inspired by the diary they found. Everything was a reminder of the great ice expeditions. But we were also inspired by a documentary about a Norwegian polar expedition that went very badly but ended with a house left behind in Antarctica. That
house is now in the care of a group of polar archaeologists.
To the Ice feels like the kind of larger-than-life epic story that will have a big impact on children, with drama and tension from the very first pages. Can you tell us how you went about building this world together—what came first, the illustrations or the text, the characters or the story?
It’s probably impossible to say which came first, the story or the illustrations. Anna-Clara made some pictures, Thomas wrote a synopsis. We talked and talked. Thomas wrote the story. Anna-Clara made some more pictures. It took a long time.
The polar landscape of the story seems slightly surreal, with elements of both the North and South Poles. Is this important to you, the blurred line between imagination and reality?
The landscape is in our imagination a mixture of the North and South Poles. We have always wanted to cross borders between different worlds, imagination and “reality”.
Are you both explorers by nature? Were you fearless as children?
We are probably not very adventurous, at least not physically. But you can imagine one thing or another, well, practically anything. And learn something from it.
To the Ice is available now from all good bookstores and on our website. Three children go on a polar expedition in this thrilling adventure for newly independent readers—an epic story that blurs realism and imagination, illustrated in color throughout.