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

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.

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.”