by Julia Marshall
Gecko Press sadly informs our readers that Ulf Nilsson, the much-loved author of the Detective Gordon books as well as All the Dear Little Animals and When We Were All Alone in the World, beautiful books that helped set the tone for Gecko Press, died in Sweden on 22 September at the age of 73.
Ulf was a gentle, twinkly and inordinately tall man, who couldn’t come to New Zealand when asked, because he didn’t fit nicely in an aeroplane. The apartment he shared with Lena straddled a street and they had two of the fluffiest cats I have ever seen, who sat in the bridge, watching the people below.
I often think of Detective Gordon, the character, during my day, when I feel it is time for a cake or a biscuit, or if I am thinking about fairness and doing right by the rules of the forest, and the pleasure of small things such as the sound of the stamp kla-dunk that signals the end of a case and a job well done.
All the Dear Little Animals was an early Gecko Press book, about the children who set up Funerals Ltd to bury all the poor dead animals, because someone must. It is for me a perfect picture book, with plot and drama and humour and character development and emotion and resolution. I know of no other book like it.
When We Were All Alone in the World is a wonderful book for parents brave enough to get past page one.
The world is a better place certainly, for Ulf’s books, and Gecko Press is proud to have had a small part in bringing some of them to children in English.
I have a great pleasure ahead of me, now tinged with sadness, in translating the final of the Detective Gordon series, recently published in Sweden and to be published by Gecko Press in 2023.
Ulf’s Swedish publisher, Bonnier Carlsen, wrote of their sorrow at losing a fantastic author and friend of 40 years and 140 books.
Ulf wrote: “I want to write about everyday things and show how big they can be for a child.” Pigs, toads, moles, guinea pigs, mice and rabbits – all have been transformed by Ulf into stories children will remember for life. A job well done.
Photo with illustrator Gitte Spee at the launch of Detective Gordon.
Images by Eva Eriksson (All the Dear Little Animals) and Gitte Spee (Detective Gordon).