The books about Handy Harvey and his somewhat whimsical friend Chip have become extremely popular in Sweden and many other countries. Where did the idea come from?
Dag Hernried, publisher at Alfabeta:
Lars Klinting was a carpenter by profession. At one point I suggested that he wrote a carpenter book for children. He said it was an interesting idea, but how should it be done? A year later he got back to me. He had found a way to do the book. And he had found the main character, Harvey!
Lars himself told the Swedish magazine Barnposten:
I was asked a long time ago if I wanted to make a fact book about wood working for children. But I did not know how to make it, so nothing came out of it. Eventually it became book after all, thanks to a little boy. The boy had a box full of pictures of tools that he used to play with. He had collected them from magazines. I asked him what he used the pictures for, and he told me that he would throw away a picture when he received the actual tool.
And then it hit me! I remembered how fascinated I was of tools as a child. How I used to stand there watching my father use these tools in his woodwork. It’s the tools themselves and what you actually can make with them that is so much fun.
At that moment the book “Harvey the Carpenter” was born – a picture book for smaller children about woodworking and the tools used for it. The storyline is built on how you make your own tool box. Considering the wood theme, Lars found it natural to make Harvey a beaver. The Swedish name for Harvey is “Castor”, which is Latin for beaver.
Lars found Harvey was such a nice character to work with, it felt obvious that he needed more books. Someone who does wood working also needs an apron, so the next book was called “Bruno the Tailor” (Harvey was originally called Bruno in USA and UK, and this book was never published in the “Handy Harvey” series). And when Harvey had an apron, what could it be used for, except woodworking? To bake a cake, of course! Gardening was another of Lars’ interests, and so it went on.
I wanted to make a series of books about things that people do,” he told Barnposten. “Many people do woodworking, paint and sew. I wanted to show the process, how everything works, from start to finish – you think, plan and then execute. I thought it was important to show children how to really do things.
Harvey has a lot of Lars Klinting in him. Like his creator, Harvey is curious, thorough, systematic and full of creativity. And keen on helping Chip get on the right track.