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.”