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

Simon Small Moves In

Astrid_SSMIThis is one of the Astrid Lindgren books that I had to buy because it wasn’t available anywhere.  Luckily, I found a copy online for very cheap — this is readily available at reasonable prices.  Lucky me!  Lucky everyone!  It’s a delight!

Simon Small Moves In (Nils Karlsson Pyssling Flyttar In, 1956, translated by Marianne Turner) is the story of Nicky (Bertil in the original Swedish) and the tiny Simon Small (or Nils Karlsson Pyssling) told through a fantastic story and Ilon Wikland’s usual wonderful pictures.

This is a thoroughly engaging book, full of whimsy and fun with a hint of real life thrown in: Nicky is sad at the beginning of the story when he thinks about his sister Katy who “was gone now, and Nicky was all alone.”  Through the rest of the book, it becomes apparent that Katy is gone permanently.

When Simon Small shows up, Nicky gains a friend and the satisfaction of finding solutions to Simon’s problems.  Nicky helps Simon procure firewood, food, and furniture (from Katy’s dollhouse).  The two become friends as they fix up Simon’s place.  Nicky is happy and laughing again and so is Simon.

“How long have you lived here?” asked Nicky.
“Oh, just a few days,” said Simon Small.  “I got the place from a town mouse.  She went to live with her sister in the country and I helped her to move her furniture out.  It’s much the best way, to have your own furniture.”


Mardie to the Rescue

Astrid_M2TR Mardie to the Rescue (Madicken och Junibackens Pims, 1976, translated by Patricia Crampton) is the second book about Mardie, which apparently was never released in the United States.  Pictures are by Ilon Wikland.  No surprise — they’re great.

The first Mardie book is a little more whimsical, but I love this book a little more because Astrid Lindgren was not afraid to discuss uncomfortable topics:

  • Mardie’s mother suffers from depression.  “She’s just lying down, feeling sorry for herself.”  Mardie gave a sigh of relief.  Mama did feel sorry for herself from time to time, but it passed over quite soon.
  • Mr Nilsson is an alcoholic: “He never does anything but compeltate and flossifize!  Was he sober?”
    “Yes, I think so,” said Mardie uncertainly.
    “I don’t think so,” said Mrs. Nilsson.
  • Mr. Lindson has mental disorder and lives in the poorhouse and attacks Lisbet.
  • Mattie and Mia live in poverty.
  • The elite make the rules and scorn the working class, such as Mardie’s beloved Alma.

Mardie is one of the only children (maybe the only child) Lindgren wrote about who was clearly from an upper-class family.  She has a dressmaker, live-in help, modest political power due to her father’s job, and lives a much more comfortable life than her friends Abe and Mattie.

Despite being comparatively rich, Mardie in this book blossoms as a generous and caring young girl.  Because of her, Mattie and Mia get de-loused, Abe has the chance to fly, and Abe’s mother sleeps easier at night after Mardie pays off the doctor.  She also includes Lisbet in so many adventures, and their relationship blossoms.

If I could have a sister out of all the characters in Astrid Lindgren’s books, I would pick Lisbet (oh, maybe Tjorven, maybe it’s a tie).  For example, this scene makes me laugh: What Lisbet could not understand was why she not in all the pictures, when Mardie had been one and two years old.  “You couldn’t be there, because you weren’t born, there wasn’t any Lisbet in the whole of Junedale,” said Mardie.  “There wasn’t any you then.”
“Silly thing, of course there was me,” said Lisbet.  “But I didn’t want to sit next to a nasty child like you.  I was at the sweetshop buying sweets.”

Lisbet also collects bad words and climbs into the wardrobe to say them to herself.

But there are also moments of seriousness: The fire and the song and the Spring dusk, oh, how could it be so beautiful and so splendid and so sad?  Mardie was full to bursting with something she could not quite put a name to.  Something which had no name.  Yes, of course, it was life itself she felt, but it was something more as well.

And this line: Imagine anything so wonderful being really true!

Eva Visits Noriko-San

Astrid_EVNS I was never happier about any Children of the World book.  This book, almost impossible to track down, was the best possible book to finish the series on.  It’s ridiculously cute.  The copy I have has 50% ripped pages, taped together and yellowed with age.  It’s original title was Eva moter Noriko-San, published in 1956.

Eva gets the news that she is going to visit Noriko-San all by herself (!).  Noriko-San gets ready for her, putting on a kimono and arranging a bunch of super-creepy dolls.  Eva comes and the two frolic about.  They switch outfits.  Finally Eva leaves.  From the plane window she waves with her hankie.  I giggled.

I don’t really understand why this is the most rare Astrid Lindgren book of all;  it’s cute, but this book seems like it has a following like no other book in the series.

You have to suspend your belief in reality a little for this book: Then all at once, the smallest cousin of all says, “Listen.  I hear an airplane.”  And that was really Eva’s plane.


Searching for Noriko-San

I could not find the Children of the World series book about Noriko-San anywhere.

Some journalist tracked down Eva and Noriko-San, but I couldn’t even track down their book!

There is not a single copy available on Amazon.  Not on the American Amazon, not on the British Amazon, not on the Canadian Amazon.  Not on AbeBooks.  Not anywhere.

There is one copy available through inter-library loan where I live.  But it is in Swedish, and they refuse to lend it out.  So . . . that’s a dead-end, twice over.

Thank goodness for Peter.  He was able to use his magical university powers to get a copy.  What would I have done without him?  Not read about Eva visiting Noriko-San, that’s for sure.

This is the single most rare book by Astrid Lindgren, at least in English.  Review coming tomorrow.

Goran’s Great Escape

Astrid_GGE Just for fun, I checked out Goran’s Great Escape from the library.  I already read The Day Adam Got Mad, but I wanted to make sure that this was, in fact, the same book.  This version was translated by Polly Lawson and published in 2011.  The Day Adam Got Mad is from 1993 with Barbara Lucas as translator.

Both translations turned into good books.  I can’t compare tAstrid_DAGMhe two side-by-side as I did for Mardie/Mischievous Meg, but the couple of lines I remember from The Day Adam Got Mad were translated with equal humor and whimsy in Goran’s Great Escape.  Both Lucas and Lawson have translated other Astrid Lindgren works with good results.  The original title in Swedish featured an Adam, so if I had to choose a translation I guess I would go with The Day Adam Got Mad, for no other reason than the name is more faithful.

The Day Adam Got Mad was one of the first books I read for this project.  Goran’s Great Escape is one of the last.

“But on this Easter Day, Goran was angry.  You could ask why he was in such a terribly bad mood that day.  We will never know.”




Emil’s Sticky Problem

IMG_6904I couldn’t find this book in the library system.  I couldn’t find this book for sale in the United States.  I finally had to order it from England.  I’m so very glad I did.  This is a beautiful book with delightful pictures by Bjorn Berg.  Its original title was Emils hyss nr 325 (Emil’s 325th prank) in 1983’s Swedish edition.  It was translated by David and Judy Scott.

Much more than the original three Emil books (Pranks, Soup Tureen, and Clever Pig) this is a picture book – with big, beautiful color pictures on each page.  The original Emil books are longer (well over 100 pages, with this one having only 60 pages) but have fewer pictures — and none in color, whereas all the pictures in this book are in color.

Emil’s mother hates the flies that get inside and wants to buy fly-paper, but Emil’s dad is too cheap and threatens that the whole family will end up begging if money is spent so frivolously.  Emil gets the brilliant idea: “If the begging has to be done, it would be better, perhaps, if I got a begging stick straight away and begged enough money to buy some fly-papers.”

Emil dresses up like a beggar, earns enough to buy fly-papers, and hangs them up in the kitchen all by himself as a surprise.  He muses: “Here all the flies in all of Katthult could once and for all be lured to their doom.”

Alas, it is not only the flies who get stuck to Emil’s surprise fly-papers.

The whole book is a delight, but this line popped out at me: “Now Emil lay there in his bed and thought so hard that his brain creaked.”

I am so glad that I ordered this from England.  It was so worth it.  Emil is a great series.

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.