I Don’t Want to Go to Bed is a ridiculously cute storybook about a little boy named Larry who doesn’t want to, uh, go to bed. Its Swedish title is Jag vill inte ga och lagga mej (1947) and was translated by Barbara Lucas and illustrated by Ilon Wikland.
Larry has a lot of energy. Aunt Lottie who lives upstairs offers Larry a look through her glasses. They are magic glasses and through them, Larry can watch animals get ready for bed. He watches a little bear going to sleep, then he watches a family of mischievous rabbits settle in (eventually) to sleep, then baby birds, then squirrels. Through their examples, Larry is inspired to not be a total butthead about going to sleep.
Yep. It’s pretty darn adorable.
This is an apt description of Larry: When his mother says, “It’s bedtime,” Larry says, “I just have to build a garage for my car,” or “I just have to draw a picture of a tiny little man.” And then he just has to jump off the kitchen table four times and pick at the little hole in his sock to see if it can get any bigger and hide behind the rocking chair to see if Mom can find him.
A Calf for Christmas (originally Nar backhultarn for till stan, 1951) was translated by Barbara Lucas and illustrated by Marit Tornqvist.
This book tells the story of Johan and his family who have just lost their only cow. They are very poor and losing Emma the cow is a huge deal for them. The local rich guy, on the other hand, has no such misfortune and comes to town to buy a calf. He gets tipsy on the way home and the calf ends up in the ditch where Johan finds her and brings her home. Johan’s father insists on finding its owner, but in the end they can keep the calf. It’s a good lesson on what to do when we find something that isn’t ours and it’s a good lesson on charity.
A Calf for Christmas is a cute story with a happy ending and absolutely gorgeous pictures by Tornqvist. Her style is well-suited to the farm stories (she also illustrated The Day Adam Got Mad/Goran’s Great Escape).
Favorite line: And Johan’s dad spent the whole morning trying to explain to his son that God has other things to do than sit around throwing calves down into country ditches.
Jag vill ocksa ga i skolan (1951) was translated into English by Barbara Lucas. Though it is one of Lindgren’s older books, it has aged very well. The pictures by Ilon Wiklund are, as always, perfect. In many scenes Ilon captures the personalities of 10-30 background characters: some worried, some hungry, some hopeful, some tired, some skeptical – all emotions, all in the background, not overpowering the story but adding a sense of depth.
This tells the story of Peter and Lena, who we will spend more time with in the future. Peter goes to school and his little sister wants to know what happens there, so she tags along for a day. This book would be a great learning tool for children who are about to either start school or have a sibling start school. It may lead to Swedish envy, however, as Lindgren describes morning break playing outside, an hour-long nature study, pancakes with lingonberry jam for lunch, more playing outside, and an hour of reading. Not to mention that the kids thank the teacher for the day before leaving. Yeah, on second thought, don’t read this to a kid who is about to start school, because in comparison, their school will really suck.
Lena reminds me a little of Lotta. I could totally picture this exchange happening between Jonas and Lotta of the Lotta series: She points to the words and reads, “Grandmother is nice . . .”
“Boy, are you dumb,” says Peter, “There’s not a word about Grandmother in that book. It’s all about squirrels.”
“It doesn’t matter,” says Lena, “I will read however I want.”
Lotta is a fun girl. She’s not as accident-prone as Emil, not as grown-up as Pippi, and not as sweet as the Children of Noisy Village. Yet she has aspects of all these characters in her.
In Lotta’s Easter Surprise (originally Visst ar Lotta en glad unge, 1990), Lotta discovers that the candy store in town is going out of business. Vasilis, the Greek dude who runs the shop, accuses the Swedes of not eating enough candy. He’s heading home. He has a bunch of leftover Christmas candy that he’s going to throw out, so he gives it to Lotta. Lotta hides it.
At home, Lotta later realizes that the Easter bunny won’t be able to visit this year due to the shop closing. In a bold move, Lindgren blows the secrets of Santa and the Easter Bunny in one fell swoop. Lotta decides to share all her Christmas candy from Vasilis and hide it around the yard like the Easter Bunny would do.
This is a sweet book, especially considering Ilon Wikland’s excellent pictures. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for young children because it does blatantly give away secrets that are best not divulged to the intended audience. I’m not sure why Lindgren felt the need to include such details. It seems out of character for Lindgren to take some magic away when all her previous books have worked to pump some magic back into the world.
On a side note, Lotta, Jonas, and Maria dress up as Easter witches and seem to be trick-or-treating during one scene. Turns out this is a thing in Sweden (further information). Who knew?
Best line: Dad was always good to have around, but Lotta didn’t want to have him all mixed up with the Easter bunny and the real Santa.
The 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.
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.”