Swedish author of children's books, born in Vaxholm in 1923. As a child, she dreamt of being a captain at sea when she grew up, but as this was not a suitable occupation for a young girl to be dreaming of, she didn't tell anybody at the time. She was only about 10 years old when she, as she puts it in an interview, started "bothering" her younger siblings with endless bedtime stories. As a teenager, she wrote "sad" poetry (again her own words).
Gripe's first stories as an adult were written for her daughter Camilla. She made her literary debut in 1954, and had her breakthrough with the trilogy on Hugo and Josephine, published during the early and mid-60s. Her work spans several genres, but she has always written for children, never considering writing for an adult audience. However, she is pleased to hear about grown-ups enjoying her writing, she assured in an interview.
Parts of her work, like the five books on Elvis Karlsson, are realistic, dealing with everyday people in everyday situations in a contemporary setting. Then there are books like Agnes Cecilia and The Glassblower's Children, that have elements of the supernatural, creating a kind of atmosphere and chilling thrill that is not too usual in children's literature. As head of the council on movies for children in Sweden, Gripe saw the development towards more violence in entertainment and started searching for alternative ways of creating suspense. In her own youth, Edgar Allan Poe and the Brontë sisters were amongst her literary favorites. Most of Gripe's suspense novels are set in the early 20th century or before.
Gripe's work has been translated into 29 different languages and has been honoured with several awards, amongst them a Premio Nacional from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Spain, where she has a large audience. In 1974 she received the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's literature, which was particularly pleasing for Maria Gripe, as her father considered Andersen to be the only real author ever.
Gripe's husband Harald Gripe (1921-1992) illustrated most of her books. He was also the initiator of the Swedish Museum of Toy Theatre.