Karin Stjernholm Ræder was an author and an illustrator. She is best known for her children’s books in which the central character is Rut-Emma.
Karin Stjernholm Ræder was born in Stockholm in 1915. She moved to Gothenburg when she was ten years old. She grew up within a merchant family and had no artist role models within her family. She spent a few years studying at Lund university. However, she never took any formal art lessons and was a self-taught illustrator. After completing her studies she discovered that she was suffering from tuberculosis during a health check and thus spent a few years recuperating at a sanatorium.
Karin Stjernholm Ræder had already begun writing while she was a pupil at the local girls’ school. She made her literary debut at the age of 22 with the release, in 1947, of a short-story collection entitled Andra. As she did not have the time to write while she was raising her own children 30 years passed before she released her next publications. These now took the form of children’s books and comprised four books, including what became her best-known book, Rut-Emma själv, published in 1977. This was the first of five books centred on the same main character. The final Rut-Emma book, Rut-Emma, nästan nio, was published in 1989. Meanwhile, Karin Stjernholm Ræder began to supply illustrations for children’s books by other authors. In 1976 she provided the illustrations for a book by Lennart Hellsing called Bro, bro, breja as well as for Eva Bexell’s book Prostens barnbarn, the first in a series about a grandfather who was a pastor.
The books about Rut-Emma and her family were based on the author’s own childhood during the 1920s. The first book contains elements reminiscent of the small town in Denmark where Karin Stjernholm Ræder spent her summers. Rut-Emma, the middle child of the fictional family, is often overshadowed by two sisters. At one point the father leaves, but eventually returns; during his absence the mother has to provide for the family which she does by painting angels. The books cover Rut-Emma’s childhood until she turns nine. The text of each successive volume gradually becomes more abundant, as what had begun as a series of children’s picture-books becomes children’s novels.
Karin Stjernholm Ræder’s mother’s childhood home of Gothenburg serve as the backdrop to the three-book series published during the 1980s about the character Manfred who dreams about the theatre. Just like the author Manfred develops tuberculosis, having grown up in poverty, and survives the illness. In the final volume of the series Manfred is working as a salesperson at a shop.
Karin Stjernholm Ræder’s written output comprises both realistic stories and nonsense, the absurd, and the ideal. Her illustrations have been donated to Gothenburg art museum. She was also involved in setting up the Barnboksbildens Vänner society in 1989.
Karin Stjernholm Ræder died in Gothenburg in 2010. She is buried at the Kviberg cemetery.