In Lotta’s Bike (Visst kan Lotta cykla, 1971), Lotta turns five years old and wants – spoiler alert – a bike.
Jonas and Maria, her siblings, ride bikes and Lotta wants to be like them. For her birthday she gets lots of fun presents and is content with them until she remembers wanting a bike. She hatches a plan to steal one from Mrs. Berg. It is old and is too big for her and she crashes spectacularly. Mrs. Berg forgives Lotta and helps patch her up. Later on, her father comes home with a used bike he found.
The best part of this Lotta book is how Lindgren captures five-year-old logic and word use. For example, Lotta’s hung up on the word “secretly.” She can “secretly” do anything – go to school, ride a bike like Jonas, have blue eyes instead of green. She doesn’t have a full grasp on the language, but that is what will make children love her so much.
I can find no translator listed for the edition I read, which is too bad, for the fun language suggests a skilled artist crafted it into English. The pictures are once more by Ilon Wiklund, who captures the fine line between simplicity and detail in his works. The picture of Lotta’s bedroom is wonderful – chaotic as a five-year-old’s room should be.
Interestingly, Astrid Lindgren’s Lotta’s Bike Page says that this book was also published under the title Of Course Polly Can Ride a Bike. Big relief for me, as that was one book I’d been unable to track down through the library and to buy it used was looking very expensive ($30+). It’s a pretty unforgivable sin to change Lotta to Polly in any translation, so it’s best if I never see that version in print anyway.
My favorite line: In the street she met the chimney sweep, who had just cleaned Mrs. Berg’s chimney. “I think red bags are nice, don’t you,” she said to him. The chimney sweep thought so, too, and that made Lotta even happier.