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

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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.

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A story of finding the books

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Kajsa Kavat

I didn’t read this book because it’s in Swedish and I am not brilliant enough to speak Swedish.  The library had it and I couldn’t help checking it out.  If nothing else, I knew I would enjoy the illustrations by Ingrid Vang-Nyman.  This book is from 1950 and includes 10 stories.

I can pick out a few words, but not too many.

The first story, Kajsa Kavat, was translated into English as Brenda Brave.  It was fun to see the prayer that Kajsa says and see how it rhymes in Swedish.  I don’t recall the English version rhyming.

The second story, Smalandsk tjurfaktare, must be the story The Day Adam Got Mad.  The Swedish story is about Adam Engelbrekt, which was the name of the bull in the story.  There is also a delightful picture of a little boy with a bull, which is a scene that happened in The Day Adam Got Mad.

The third story, Gull-Pian, features a girl named Eva . . . something about her cousins and a doll.  Yeah, I’m pretty dependent upon pictures.  Alas!

Lite om Sammelagust is likely a story about Astrid’s father.  I know she wrote about Samuel August and her mother Hanna.  Hanna does not make an appearance in this story, but I’d bet that this is about her dad.

Nanting levande at Lame-Kal is probably about two sisters, Annastina and Lillstumpan.  Probably.  And kittens.  And some dude in bed.

Hoppa hogst is about Albin and Stickan and they end up on the roof.  Astrid Lindgren does like roofs.  And they end up in the hospital.  Or something.

Stora syster och lille bror is about siblings.  There’s only one picture for this story, so . . .

Pelle flytar till Komfusenbo is a little boy who flies off somewhere.

Marit is about a princess and Jonas Petter.  This looks like such a good story.  Beautiful, enigmatic pictures.

Goddnatt, herr luffare! means Goodnight, Mr. Hobo!  Which I love.

What a fun, pretty book.  I am glad that at least a couple of the stories were translated into English.  This book is a glimpse into the many Astrid Lindgren stories that I will never know unless I learn Swedish.

Kati in Paris

Astrid_KiPThis is the forgotten series by Astrid Lindgren(besides that Children of the World series which everyone has been trying to forget).  There are three Kati books that chronicle a young woman’s life. The edition of Kati in Paris (Swedish: Kati i Paris, 1953, no translator listed) that I read included a handful of pictures by Daniel DuPuy, all in color and on glossier paper than the rest of the book.  I mention this because the book feels and looks different from anything else Lindgren wrote — and the subject matter follows suit. These were obviously written for an older audience and they read like teen fiction. Astrid Lindgren’s official site sums it up: Today these three Kati-books appear to have their own special genre, of which this is the last: books for girls with a combination of reporting, portrayal of a woman’s business-life and in this last “edition”, a love-and-marriage novel.

Yes.  This is the only book I’ve read by Lindgren that by any stretch of the imagination could be called a romance novel or a “love-and-marriage” novel, though all of Astrid’s books deal with love in some form.  I enjoyed seeing this side of Lindgren’s writing.  Although I jumped into the series at the end due to a quirk in the library system, I loved the depth of the characters she created.

There’s Lennart, Kati’s fiance, of whom she says, “Lennart was far from the first man in my life.  He was the second, and I hoped he would be the last.”

There’s Eva, Kati’s BFF, who she describes like this: I was thinking of the list Eva had in her desk drawer in the office: ‘If I get rabies, these are the people I’m going to bite.'”

And then there is Paris: “Old cities are strange.  Human beings crowd together, live their brief lives, work, love, laugh, and cry for a time in this city which they call Paris.  Gradually they die, and their places are taken by other people who work and love and laugh and cry; and then they, too, are gone.  But don’t they leave behind something of their joy and their pain, their desires, their thoughts, their sorrows and their longing, their hates, their fears?  Isn’t that what I feel when I walk around in their city?  Don’t the cobblestones murmur a quiet account of those who lived here before?  I can go anywhere in Paris, and those who live here. . .can’t outshout the cobblestones.”

Of course, there’s part of me that chafes at the fact that Kati gives up her job which she is fond of in order to have a baby.  But there are also progressive ideas in this book, like the fact that Kati and Lennart move next door to Kati’s friend Eva.  Eva is such a part of Kati’s life – a part that Lennart just has to accept and love.  Indeed, it seems that Lennart gives up more for the marriage than Kati does, straining his relationship with his mother.

In the end, you can tell that this book was written in the 1950s and not in the 2000s, but its tone is, if anything, quaint – far from oppressive or offensive. As a stand-alone book, I enjoyed it, although descriptions of Paris would be tremendously tedious if one has not been to Paris and already developed a love for it.  The Kati books are very rare, though, so finding a copy to read will be a challenge.  I was only able to read Kati in Paris because my boyfriend Peter finagled it from an out-of-state library.  Major thanks to Peter.

Pippi Longstocking’s After-Christmas Party

Astrid_PLACPPippi har julgransplundring, published in 1950, was translated to English by Stephen Keeler and illustrated by Michael Chesworth.  It feels like a chapter’s worth of Pippi story from the novels, but is a stand-alone book.

In this story, Pippi throws a party for all the children of Villekulla.  She invites them all over to hang out in her igloo and eat sweets in true Pippi form.  She befriends a poor friendless boy named Elof and ends up adopting a dog named Perk.

They slide off the roof, dance around the tree, sing songs (“We three kings of Orient are, one on a bicycle, two in a car . . .”), and distribute gifts.  Pippi’s generosity towards fellow children is shown time and time again, especially in her interactions with Elof.

My favorite conversation: “Just think, Pippi,” said Tommy, “Now you’ve got a dog and a horse and a monkey at Villa Villekulla.”
“Yes.  All that’s missing now is a crocodile and a couple of small rattlesnakes,” said Pippi contentedly.

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.