Due to a quirk of the library system, I ended up reading the third and final Bill Bergson book, Bill Bergson and the White Rose Rescue, before the second Bill Bergson book. Although there are three in the series, it would make little difference what order they are read in. They’re less of a series and more like a grouping.
Florence Lamborn translated the version I read from the original Kalle Blomkvist och Rasmus, first published in 1953. This book has frequent pictures by Don Freeman – the guy who wrote the Corduroy picture books! I knew his name was familiar. This book strikes a good balance between text and pictures, with most chapters beginning with a small picture. This lightened the mood a little from the first Bill Bergson book.
Bill’s world, perhaps the least magical and whimsical of Lindgren’s series, is nevertheless a great place to hang out for a couple hundred pages. In this story, Bill, Anders, and Eva-Lotta help a kidnapped child (originally named Rasmus, but changed to Eric in the American translation – WHY, God, WHY?) If you can get past the fact that the kidnappers in the story really suck at their job and may be the most inept kidnappers ever, even adults will enjoy this adventure.
Adults also have to put aside the harsh reality that any kids attempting what this trio does would be grounded. Forever.
Adults will also have to struggle with the fact that Eric is an obnoxious little brat and really, a kidnapping might have been a blessing. I am sure that he is much more tolerable when he is named Rasmus, but we’ll never know, because someone authorized all these name changes. Whoever did that was morally bankrupt and ought to be ashamed.
Eva-Lotta remains one of my favorite characters: plucky and brave as they come, completely respected by her two BFFs. Oh, they roll their eyes at her when she’s oogly-eyed over little Eric, but I am sure her affinity for the little boy was much more realistic when he was named Rasmus.
I can’t possibly choose just one scene to highlight from this book, as I frequently chuckled.
“Isn’t it really strange,” he said, “What we get involved in time after time . . . .”
“Yes,” Anders agreed. “The things that happen to us only happen to other people in books.”
“Perhaps this is happening in a book,” said Bill.
“What do you mean? Are you nuts?” said Anders.
“Perhaps we don’t exist,” said Bill dreamingly. “Perhaps we’re only a couple of guys in a book that someone has made up.”
“Well, maybe you are,” said Anders, annoyed. “It wouldn’t surprise me if you were a typographical error, to come right down to it.”
“This was an uncomfortable thought. To be laughed at and – still worse – to be forty years old at the same time there were other fortunate people who weren’t more than thirteen or fourteen! Anders felt a deep dislike of those youngsters who would some day take over playgrounds and hiding places . . .”
One final thought: They ought to have kept Eric’s name as Rasmus. I don’t know if I made that clear.