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.
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.
This book claims to be part of the “Children of the World” series. Whew. That is so much better than “Children’s Everywhere.” No other book in the series so far has claimed “Children of the World,” but I am going to run with it.
Sia Lives on Kilimanjaro (originally Sia bor pa Kilimandjaro, 1958) is the story of a girl who lives wherever Kilimanjaro is in Africa. (Yes, yes, I know where it is. Do children?)
Sia lives in a sweet hut with her little sister Linga and little brothers Saika and Kitutu. She has another brother, Sariko, who is older than her and doesn’t let her forget it.
One day her parents dress up and desert the children so they can go see the king. They leave 8-year-old Sia to look after all the mess they’ve left behind. No wonder she ditches the kids and takes off after her brother, who also wants to go see the king.
They walk past elephants and giraffes (seems legit) in order to hitch-hike into town. Sariko lies and tells his sister that only boys are allowed to go. Jerk. Then why did her mom go? Sia doesn’t fall for his crap. She hitches into town too.
Then she marches up to the king. Because security sucked in those days. She tells him that her brother is full of crap, and the king says he will speak with him. Burrrrrn. Of course, Mum and Pop are bummed that their kids disobeyed all their orders and left all the little kids alone to fend for themselves among the wild animals.
“We will not be too cross, for they are small, and this has been an exciting adventure,” says their mother. Right. Because that’s totally how it would go down.
Honestly, reading these books isn’t bad. It’s the trying to find anything good about them after reading them that is so tough.
Here, almost at the end of the Children of the World series, I am presented with a (relative) gem of a story. Noy Lives in Thailand is listed on Astrid Lindgren’s website (and also Wikipedia) as Noby Lives in Thailand, but the original Swedish version of 1966 was titled Noy bor i Thailand and the English version is about Noy as well, so an online typographical error seems like the most likely situation. I doubt a book about Noby ever existed – if it did, Google can’t find it.
Noy lives in rural Thailand. Finally her father lets her go with him to Bangkok to sell fruits and vegetables there. While in Bangkok, Noy wanders off and tours the city before eventually being found. It’s a simple story, but interesting and sweet. There seems to be less jumping around on the storyline. Maybe it’s just that wandering the streets of Bangkok is an easier plot to weave bits of whimsy into rather than forcing it onto the more serene landscapes of other books in this series.
Of the books in this series, this one has aged the best, perhaps. Black and white pictures are still a setback to enthralling children, but overall the story is good, the translation seems decent, and Noy as a character is fun and unobjectionable. For the Children of the World series, this is high praise.
Although he only appears on a couple of pages, Noy’s brother Tavi sums up the world in this sentence: “I like to bathe too, even though I’m not a buffalo.”
Lilibet, Circus Child (listed as simply Circus Child on some Lindgren websites) tells the story of young Lilibet who grows up in a circus (bet you didn’t see that one coming). The original title was Lilibet Cirkusbarn and it was published in Sweden in 1960. Translators for this series are unknown.
This book in the Children of the World series has perhaps the most compelling pictures from a kid’s point of view: many photos feature Lilibet or other children interacting with animals such as elephants and horses. That’s way cooler than looking at Randi ski or Dirk being a jerk.
Knowing how Astrid Lindgren was an advocate for animal rights, it must have really irked her to write text for photos of chimpanzees and tigers in cages looking sad. She gets her dig in: “Chimpanzees don’t like being in cages, and tigers don’t either. If Leo had his way, he would let them go. Tigers and monkeys should be in the jungle and not in circuses, he says. He’s very clever sometimes, I think.” Leo and Lilibet don’t see eye to eye on anything, but even Lilibet sides with him on this case.
Matti Lives in Finland (originally Matti bor i Finland, 1968) is the story of a young boy who desperately wants a pet. His bestie Merja has all sorts of pets, but he doesn’t. Finally he convinces his dad to let him raise a calf, not understanding that the calf will not live very long. Soon enough the calf is sold to Merja’s grandfather for veal for an upcoming birthday party. Matti throws a fit and Merja convinces her veal-eating pop-pop to give the poor calf back to her friend. In the end, they all attend the grandfather’s birthday party where they eat pork instead. No one cares about the pigs, apparently.
Of all the Children of the World series, this one seems to have weathered the years better than the others. It focuses on a struggle nearly all children (and many adults) face: wanting a pet. The idea of someone buying and eating our pet is perverse enough that it should keep children engaged. Or enraged.
Some of the issues of the series are present in Matti’s story as well. The series has a tendency to jump around a lot for no apparent reason other than it seems Riwkin-Brick had photos of certain events. So you get Matti in a boat on one page and on the next, “He decides to do some painting . . .” A few sentences later: “Merja wants him to pick wild strawberries instead.” Ummm. Why are these things happening? They add nothing to the story. I am all for whimsy, but it feels like Lindgren had to really try to shove some whimsy into the plot.
I don’t know how these books were written. Did Lindgren come up with a basic storyline and Riwkin-Brick supply the photos? That sure seems unlikely, judging by what I know of Lindgren’s writing style. It seems infinitely more likely that Riwkin-Brick supplied Lindgren with a book full of photos and Lindgren had to put them in some kind of order to create a story.
Best line, courtesy of Matti, “I’ll kick that birthday party into a thousand pieces.”
My Swedish Cousins was originally Mina svenska kusiner (1959). As with all books in this series so far, the translator remains a mystery. Probably had to join the Swedish version of the witness protection program.
In this story, Bjorn (who lives with his grandmother in Dalarna) introduces and waits for a visit from his cousins. His cousins conveniently live all around Sweden. Maria and Anders live in Skane. Gunnar lives in Norrland. Sigrid lives on the west coast by the sea. Johan and Eva live in Stockholm. All these losers meet up once a year at Midsummer. In the meantime, they write letters to Grandmother. In those days, texting was called “letters.” No fewer than 16 pages are spent on the story of the day Eva took her cat on a tour of Stockholm. Gunnar, meanwhile, is a self-proclaimed hero for bringing his dad the lunch foolishly forgotten. Let’s hope Granny has a wood stove to burn all this inane nonsense. I even like nonsense! But this book’s nonsense is so tedious that, quite honestly, I missed Randi and Dirk.
Finally Midsummer comes and Grandmother forces the kids to eat meatballs. The kids stay up late and have a pillow fight and then go home to their sad, dull lives.
The best line of the book: You shouldn’t have cats in town, I thought. And not sisters, either.