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

Archive for April, 2015

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.


A story of finding the books


Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter

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.

Children’s Day in Bullerbu

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.



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

Emil’s Little Sister

Astrid_ELS Emil’s Little Sister is the hardest Emil book to find in America, but I feel so lucky because I was able to read it thanks to Saltkråkan AB who sent me a copy.  I am so grateful!  Thank you, Saltkråkan folks!

This was a wonderful way to end my time with Emil.  I will always go back and revisit, but for now I am finished reading Emil.  This has been my favorite discovery of the whole Lindgren project — finding Emil.  I could read books about Emil forever.

This story features Emil’s sister Ida a little more than the other books, as would be expected with the title.  Its title in Swedish is Nar lilla skulla gora hyss  (1982) and it was translated by David Scott with pictures by the fabulous Bjorn Berg.  Bjorn Berg has done such a consistently great job with Emil’s family.

Ida is envious of Emil’s prowess with pranks and decides that she too wants to make a visit to the woodshed where Emil serves time after he gets into trouble.  Ida goes in search of trouble but has a hard time finding it like Emil.  And even when something is her fault, she doesn’t get blamed!

She and her brother have this funny interaction:

Then Ida’s face lit up like the sun.
“I think I’ve done something naughty,” she said.
“Yes.  You certainly have,” said Emil.
“And I didn’t know it till afterwards,” said Ida.  “What you said is right.  It just happens.”

Skrallan and the Pirates

Astrid_SkrallanThis was one of the hardest books to find until it became one of the easiest.  The difference?  The translation.  At some point, Skrallan and the Pirates ( Skrallan och sjorovarna, 1967) was translated under the title Scrap and the Pirates.  That edition is incredibly rare.  I tried to get it through inter-library loan ten times, but each one was out of state and my requests were all denied.  All the copies for sale online are almost a hundred dollars.

Finally, I discovered that this book was also translated under this title!  Skrallan and the Pirates was not available through the library, but copies were cheap and plentiful online.  I was so happy!

This book is illustrated by Sven-Eric Deler and Stig Hallgren, and the pictures are all in color.  It was translated by Albert Read and Christine Sapieha.

I didn’t know anything about this book when I ordered it.  I was so surprised to open it up and see familiar names: Skrallan and the Pirates follows adventures had on Saltcrow/Seacrow Island!  Having never seen the TV series, I never had seen an image of what the characters look like.  For the first time, I got to see Malin, Melker, and Tjorven!  And Bosun the dog, of course.  It was like visiting old friends that I made while on the island.  It has been a couple months since I read Seacrow Island, but I was able to fall right back into that world.

This is such a fun book to read after having read Seacrow Island.  I never knew if Malin would marry Petter for sure.  It was fun to see them as a family, and fun to see little Pelle, my favorite of Melker’s children.  It’s comforting to know that even if I am not visiting the island, Melker is still being Melker.   As for Skrallan, she gets into all kinds of trouble, as children should on the island.

This is a beautiful book and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to revisit my old friends on the island.  What a wonderful surprise!

I like this bit of wisdom: It’s not much fun being locked up in a dark place.