Shaping Young Minds
"Our goal is for all people, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity or other such things, to have the freedom to create their own identity and be respected for their personal qualities," said Karin Salmson, the co-founder of the new Vilda publishing house.
But several critics are outraged, saying they are simply pushing propaganda disguised as literature.Vilda and another small publisher, Olika, both opened their doors last year with the express aim of making children's books that promote liberal values and challenge traditional views on gender, race and sexual orientation.
The publishers' philosophies are largely in line with ruling attitudes in this Scandinavian country, which is widely considered a world leader in gender equality and minority rights.
But critics have challenged their methods.
"For both Vilda and Olika, their values are the top priority ... and I think that is simply the wrong approach when you want to make good children's books," says Lotta Olsson, a literary critic at Sweden's paper of reference.
If the whole aim of a story is to promote an idea and alter children's behaviour and attitudes, the artistic and literary side of the book tends to suffer she insists.
"You cannot write a book simply because you want it to be gender equal. You can however write a good book that is gender equal, but as soon as you can see the thought behind the book, I think the artistic side has failed," she tells AFP.
Both Tomicic and Salmson, however, dismiss the criticism as "cultural elitism," pointing out that they have received an overwhelmingly positive response from parents.
Olsson rejects that notion, maintaining that the problem with the new publishing houses is their "prerequisite that they only take in authors with the same perspective. That affects their access to books in a way that just isn't good."
"I don't think it works either," she insists. "Children do as we do, not as we tell them to do. If you look around and see women being treated worse than men, it makes no difference that you've read a children's book in which the mother goes to work and the father stays home with the kids."