a book blog about reading all of astrid lindgren's books

I thought this blog was over.

Just because I’ve ignored this blog for years doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading — and loving — Astrid Lindgren books. I’ve re-read many of the books, and at Christmas or my birthday there’s nearly always been a favorite Astrid book waiting for me. There didn’t seem to be anything else to say — I read all the books. Done.

Well, maybe.

I never intended to collect all of Astrid’s books. Not my goal. There are so many, and I try to not accumulate too many books because it makes it hard to move. I don’t think a person needs to own something to appreciate it.

Yet at the back of my mind there’s been this little worry that some of her books are disappearing and will be increasingly harder to find — and therefore harder to ever read and appreciate again. For many of her books such as the Bill Bergson/Kalle Blomquist series, new life has been zapped into the books with new editions. (This is great news because the original edition Bill Bergson trilogy would set me back at least $250. Ouch.) Yet there are books like Brenda Brave, the Kati series, and the Riwkin-Brick books which, realistically and sadly, are probably never going to be reprinted. I would LOVE to be wrong about this.

I blame my partner Elliott. (Yes, a lot can change in three years.) His not-quite-midlife crisis consisted of buying 50 pounds of Legos this month and turning our living room into a Lego workshop. As far as midlife crises go, I can handle this one. It was enormously fun to watch him explore a toy from his childhood and rekindle a love of play. While he was sorting, I read to him from Astrid’s War Diaries and it made me realize that Legos are to him what Astrid Lindgren is to me. And he was having so much fun with Legos. Wouldn’t I also have fun if I revisited Astrid Lindgren?

Stepping over Legos for a week, I concluded that I could do worse things than slowly collect all the Astrid Lindgren books. Some of them are disappearing and I want to be able to read them still in decades to come.

 

Advertisements

War Diaries

Image result for astrid lindgren war diaries amazonYes, it has been awhile.

I got this book for Christmas in 2016. Due to a different reading project I was doing in 2017, I didn’t get a chance to actually read it until this month.

Phenomenal.

For someone (me) who really despises war history in general, these diaries are a way for me to connect with history. To read what Astrid was thinking and feeling about the war and to learn how it affected Sweden and its neighboring countries – what a unique view into history. The little details like what was rationed when and how people reacted to it were my favorite parts — these little pieces of history might be lost to time without these diaries.

It’s fascinating to relive the war in an era before worldwide news on television and the internet. Rumors, who heard what from what source, and of course the letters she read — these were her Twitter. Astrid also freely wrote what she thought of the players involved (“those poor devils!” she writes of the Italians at one point).

Then there’s Astrid-as-an-author and for any fan of her works this diary is important because it all began here: her success with Britt-Mari and later Pippi. English readers don’t know Britt-Mari because for the life of me, I cannot find a translated version of the book (anyone?) but of course we all know Pippi Longstocking. And Pippi was born during the war. In fact, if not for the war, we can assume circumstances would have been different enough that we would never have met Pippi. She would never have existed.

One can’t help but wonder if Pippi’s success – not only with Astrid’s daughter Karin but also the world – was in part because the world needed the kind of chaos that Pippi brings — fun, childish and childlike chaos — as opposed to the years of death, destruction and emotionally-draining chaos the world had been suffering.

Yes, this book drew me in because it’s Astrid’s words — but even if this wasn’t the work of my most favorite author, it would be an incredibly interesting book.

The biggest thank-you

I don’t know how I would have completed this project if not for the support from:

  • Dad and Mom:
    Thank you for putting up with my ridiculous projects and sending me some surprise books in the mail.  It was fun to have someone to geek out with about the project.  Without you, I would have grown up without knowing Rasmus, Ronia, or Pippi.
  • Peter:
    Your willingness to hunt down some of the rarest books is, really, the only reason I could finish this project.  Eva Visits Noriko-San cannot be purchased, yet you tracked down a copy for me.  Thank you for checking out some of the most ridiculous titles ever to grace your library. This project will always remind me of snowy days spent laughing at Astrid Lindgren’s books while you tried to work on your dissertation.
  • Saltkråkan AB:
    I am so humbled that this project was noticed by you, and even more amazed that you were willing to send me some books to help me complete the project.  Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, and for all you do for Astrid Lindgren’s works.
  • Hennepin County Library, Attn Westonka Branch:
    I’m grateful that the dozens of books sent to me arrived promptly and in one piece.  Thanks for putting up with all the requests.
  • Colleen:
    Thank you for your assistance in tracking down Scrap and the Pirates.  Your WorldCat knowledge is dangerous.Pippi

The end.

A Snapshot: Top 12

Most people will never have the time (or inclination) to read all of Astrid Lindgren’s books.  The following books would give a reader an overview of Astrid Lindgren’s writing.  If you want to understand her genius and the variety of writing styles and themes she mastered, these are the 12 you should read:

  • Ronia the Robber’s Daughter
    • The ultimate Astrid Lindgren book, Ronia captured my heart as a child and I have read it at least five times.  Ronia is a must-read for the way Lindgren writes about family, friends, nature, growing up, forgiveness, and love.
  • Pippi Goes on Board
    • The most famous Lindgren character, Pippi Longstocking can’t not be on this list.  Her name will always be tied to Astrid’s.  I think Pippi Goes on Board is the best Pippi book because it contains my favorite story: the time Pippi arranged a shipwreck for Tommy and Annika.  However, any of the Pippi novels could be substituted for this one.
  • Karlson Flies Again
    • Famous in Russia yet unknown in America, Karlson is someone you need to be introduced to because he seems like a fellow who doesn’t fit in among Lindgren’s menagerie of characters.  He’s the only bully I’ve ever really put up with.  I feel that his second book is the best of the three: I laughed the hardest and was least-bothered by Karlson’s purposefully-abrasive bullying in this book.
  • Bill Bergson Lives Dangerously
    • Bill Bergson lives in the least-enchanted world of Lindgren’s characters.  For realism, for humor, and really for Eva-Lotta, at least one Bill Bergson book is recommended.  Either Bill Bergson, Master Detective or Bill Bergson Lives Dangerously would give a good view into this world; Bill Bergson and the White Rose Rescue does not contain much of the War of the Roses (despite the name), and I feel that the friendly rivalry is the highlight of the series, with the second book being the most exciting to me.
  • Happy Times in Noisy Village
    • You can’t understand the scope of Astrid’s writings without visiting Noisy Village.  I liked this book best of this series.  It’s the sweetest, gentlest writing of her chapter books.
  • Emil and Piggy Beast
    • I believe that the Emil series is the best overall series that Astrid Lindgren wrote: don’t get me wrong, I love Pippi and the others, but the character who should have exploded all over the world was Emil.  Of the series, Emil and Piggy Beast/Emil and his Clever Pig stands out to me, although they are all excellent.
  • Lotta on Troublemaker Street
    • Lotta is a must-meet character and this is the most enchanting of her stories; it’s the one I remember the best.  Astrid mastered the art of seeing the world from a child’s viewpoint, and nowhere is this more evident than Lotta books.
  • Rasmus and the Vagabond or Seacrow Island
    • At first glance, these two books seem like an odd pair to choose between.  My reasoning is this: both books thrive in the atmosphere of summer – the books are mired in the freedom, hope, and adventure that summers bring.  They both stress the importance of family: Rasmus, who doesn’t have one and Seacrow Island, which is kind of one big family.  Family and adventure are the central themes of both books, and for that reason, I recommend reading one or the other. (Well, preferably both, but if I’m trying to keep the list to 12…)
  • Mio, My Son or The Brothers Lionheart
    • Both of these books are fantastic, but to me they showcase the same aspect of Astrid Lindgren’s writing: loss and escape into fantasy, overcoming evil, and hope for the next chapter of life.  Although they are very different stories, their themes are similar and for that I recommend one or the other (if you don’t plan to read many of her works).
  • The Dragon with Red Eyes
    • This picture book is magical, hopeful, and heartbreaking all in a couple dozen pages.  I can’t say enough good things about this story.
  • The Runaway Sleigh Ride
    • How could I not include a Madicken title?  Although I love the Madicken novels, I feel this book does a great job of summing up the love Lisbet and her family share and the trouble the girls can get into.  It also showcases how beautifully Astrid Lindgren wrote about seasons.  Astrid Lindgren should be remembered for her picture books as well as her novels and though novels dominate this list, picture books like The Runaway Sleigh Ride tell equally important stories.
  • Simon Small Moves In
    • This is another magical storybook filled with hope, friendship, and helping each other out.  It creatively demonstrates how to see the world from a very different viewpoint — and it’s one of Astrid Lindgren’s truly playful stories.

There are so many books I want to put on this list.  The Red Bird, Mardie, Kati in Italy, The Tomten and the Fox — ufffff, they should all be on here!  But that would defeat the purpose of giving a snapshot.  These are my opinions and I almost agree with myself on them.

20150416020446

Astrid_RoniaI saved this book for last because I couldn’t imagine any other book ever living up to it.  Every time I read it, which is every couple of years, I am blown away by how incredible it is.  Really.  If you haven’t read Ronia, go do it.  Now.

Originally Ronja Rovardotter, the book was published in 1981 and translated by Patricia Crampton.  Once upon a time, it was translated as Kirsty the Robber’s Daughter.  Woffor did un do that?  Thankfully, the 1985 translation reverted the name to Ronia.

What is it that makes Ronia the best book?

There is humor: Only Noddle-Pete stubbornly refused to roll in the snow.  “I may die anyway,” he said, “and I want to do it with the dirt I’ve got on me.”

There is wonder: She laughed silently because rivers and forests were there.  She could scarcely believe it.

There is hope: She thought happily before she closed her eyes, Tomorrow I’ll be getting up again!

There is growing up: The world was bigger than Matt.  It was so big that it took your breath away.

There is friendship: She remembered how things had been before, when she was alone and the woods were enough for her.  How long ago that seemed now!  Now she needed Birk to share everything with.

There are troubles with children: “You can’t do anything with children these days. They do as they like – you just have to get used to it.  But it’s not easy.”  (Matt to Borka)

There are struggles: Then Ronia became desperate.  “Life is something you have to take care of — don’t you realize that?”

There is loss: But Matt walked up and down the stone hall weeping mightily and shouting, “He’s always been here!  And now he’s not!”

There are magical creatures: “Woffor did un do that?” say the rumphobs.

There is magic in the forest: The woods in the spring night felt full of secrets, full of magic and other strange and ancient things.  There were dangers there, too, but Ronia was not afraid.

Some combination of all this makes Ronia the most satisfying book I have ever read, and a big part of why I wanted to fully explore all of Astrid Lindgren’s works.

This book concludes the Astrid Lindgren Thru-Read of 2015.  More thoughts on completion will be coming soon.

IMG_6935Children’s Day in Bullerbu was the most difficult of all the Noisy Village books to find. Copies of the book surface online, but are expensive – 2 copies on Amazon.co.uk are currently for sale for 113 pounds ($168) – plus shipping.  Huge thanks go out to Saltkråkan AB for finding this book for me to read!

This book (originally Barnens Dag I Bullerbyn, 1966) was translated by David HenryIMG_6926 Wilson and illustrated by Katrin Engelking.   Another version with pictures by Ilon Wikland exists titled A Day At Bullerby, but I read this version.  The book was published in Great Britain in 1967 with reprints in 1974 and 1979.  I don’t think it was ever published in the United States.

This tells the story of when the Bullerby children decide to throw a Children’s Day for little Kerstin.  Kerstin, however, is having none of it.  Every idea they come up with leads to screaming.  Eventually the kids decide to try to replicate a roller coaster.  They tie a rope around Kerstin’s waist and lower her out the window.  This is such a terrible idea.  I had to laugh, because I can’t imagine this being published today, in this litigious age.  Of course, I think it’s great.

The older kids fail to severely maim Kerstin despite their best efforts, and all ends well.  This was my last Noisy Village book, and my second-to-last Astrid Lindgren book overall.  There is definitely some sadness at having finished this series.  I grew to rather like these kids.  Especially when they start dangling toddlers out of the window.

My favorite line: Then Aunt Lisa came and said if we did any more stupid things with Kerstin we could be in for something nasty.

IMG_6934

 

Also, I’m totally amazed by this postage stamp printed from Sweden.  Happy 70th Anniversary, Pippi!