a book blog about reading all of lindgren's books in 2015

Archive for January, 2015

Christmas in Noisy Village

Astrid_CINV My second visit to Noisy Village was much less daunting than the first one. This book is again narrated by Lisa, but she never introduces herself in the book.  I think this is an interesting choice – perhaps it helps immerse the reader by making us become the narrator.  This time around, with a general idea of the characters, it was much easier to lose myself in the story and not get hung up on who’s who.  Luckily for me, Ilon Wikland, the illustrator for Springtime in Noisy Village, also illustrated this book.  I try not to focus too much on the illustrations or illustrators, focusing instead on the story, but Ilon’s sense of humor and continuity is definitely important.

The book, originally titled Jul i Bullerbyn (1963) was translated by Florence Lamborn who, unlike the past books I’ve read, gets credit for her work.

I enjoyed the description of closing Christmas paper with sealing wax.  That’s an experience I will never have, but it’s fun to look back in time.

Favorite quote: “All those hours you have to wait for your Christmas presents are what turn your hair gray,” Karl said.

Springtime in Noisy Village

Astrid_SINVSpringtime in Noisy Village (Var i Bullerbyn, 1965) was my first view into the Noisy Village world.

At first, the world can feel overwhelming, not because the world itself is so vast (it is rather small) but because there are so many characters.  The book is narrated by Lisa, making it the first book by Lindgren that I’ve found to be written in the first person.  Lisa goes on to (kind of) introduce Britta, Anna, Karl, Bill, Olaf, and Kerstin.  Given that while reading the book, I have a pretty clear idea who Lisa is, and that Kerstin is the toddler, that still leaves me with six main characters to learn in one short picture book – a very different situation from The Red Bird, for example, in which there are only two main characters.

Nevertheless, despite the occasional confusion, the book is humorous with fun language and situations.  The great illustrations of Ilon Wikland capture the joys of being a child in the spring.

Like The Tomten, I can find no information on who, if anyone, translated this book.  If you can point me to this information, please get in touch with me.  Thanks!

Lindgren’s books might have trouble being published for the first time today due to our overly-litigious and over-protective society.  In this book alone, a toddler plays with a wild animal for fun, children jump off a woodshed roof for fun, ride on a bull for fun, and walk across the top of the barn roof for fun.  Lindgren’s writing is a reminder that childhood used to be fun.

Truer words have never been written than this short passage:
“Who said we must only walk on the road?”  Karl asked afterward.
“Some grownup, I suppose,” said Bill.
And that’s what I think too.

The Tomten

Astrid_Tomten

The Tomten is a winter story about a little troll who makes nightly visits around a farm.  A funny little creature, the troll is at worst benign and often helpful to the other citizens of the farm.

I’ve heard many numbers cited as to how many people in Iceland believe in elves – anywhere from 26 – 55%.  I’ve found fewer resources on Swedish inclinations.  Yet there is something very Scandinavian about The Tomten and the belief in creatures like him.  No wonder.  With such nice introductions to hidden folk, I’d want to believe in them too.

The book is based off a poem by Viktor Rydberg and was originally published in 1961.  It is illustrated by Harald Wiberg.

I can find no information about a translator.  I do not know if Astrid ever wrote in English, but no evidence of a translator is present in the copy of The Tomten that I read.

My favorite line: “If they would only wake up, then I could talk to them in tomten language, a silent little language children can understand.  But children sleep at night.”

The Day Adam Got Mad

Astrid_DAGMThe Day Adam Got Mad ( Nar Adam Engelbrekt blev tvarag) tells a tale of an angry bull who is eventually calmed by a little boy named Karl.  A lighthearted and fun story, Lindgren never tells us why Adam was mad — it is simply enough to know that he was.

In a short book, Lindgren quickly captures the character of Karl, making his ripped pants and runny nose speak volumes about his priorities.IMG_6834

The text was copyrighted in 1950 and translated in 1993 by Barbara Lucas.  Again, Marit Tornqvist succeeds in capturing the world Astrid Lindgren creates.  Check out this stunning forest created by Marit.

My favorite line: “Perhaps, in the end, it turned out not to be as much fun to be angry as Adam had thought.”

The Red Bird

Astrid_RBThe Red Bird (original title: Sunnanang) is the story of two children who find escape from a dreary existence in a magical land where all their dreams come true.  The book has a darker tone than most children’s books I’ve read.  Lindgren did not shy away from writing about the sadder parts of life but, like her other works, the shadows are soon lifted.

It was published in 1959 but I read a relatively new translation/illustrated version from 2003-2005.

Patricia Crampton, the translator who masterfully translated Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, also translated this book.

Illustrator Marit Tornqvist captures the contrast between worlds.  The regular world of Matthew and Anna is dark and dreary; Sunnymead is green and alive.

My favorite line: “All the loveliness of spring burst over them in one exultant instant: A thousand little birds sang, rejoicing in the trees; all the spring rivulets gurgled, all the spring flowers sparkled, and the children were playing in a meadow as green as the fields of paradise.”

A simple goal

Or was it?

I picked up this book at a thrift store for 25 cents.  I’d loved Astrid Lindgren when I was growing up: Pippi Longstocking, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, Rasmus and the Vagabond . . . but other than Ronia, whose story I revisit every couple of years, I’ve been estranged from the rest of Astrid’s work. I moved on to other authors and have spent very little time back in Astrid’s worlds.

After reading this book, I was inspired to make (what I thought was) a simple goal: to read all of Astrid’s books (at least, those translated into English) in 2015.  I thought this would equal maybe eight children’s novels.

Hah.

Astrid was far more prolific than I’d imagined.  And these books are going to be far more difficult to track down than I imagined.

It will be an interesting year.