Rasmus and the Vagabond was translated by Gerry Bothmer from Rasmus pa Luffen (1960) and illustrated by Eric Palmquist. It tells the story of an energetic and hopeful little boy with straight hair who runs away from the orphanage in search of parents who want him. He finds Oscar, a vagabond who sings for his supper and sleeps in haylofts. Latching on to his new best friend, Rasmus tags along and the two accidentally get caught up in the scene of a robbery. Falsely accused, with Oscar potentially heading to jail and the threat of the orphanage looming over Rasmus, the two must escape and prove that they are innocent – and, if they can, bring the real criminals to justice.
This is a light-hearted, fun book and one of Astrid’s better efforts. She perfectly manages to sum up the feeling of freedom as Rasmus takes off down the open road with Oscar, resting in meadows and “owning” everything in their sight. It’s got enough nostalgia for adults to love it, but enough action (including possibly the most fulfilling chase scene I’ve ever read) to keep even screen-junkie kids interested. It’s a shame this book isn’t more popular than it is.
Oscar’s life philosophy is pretty much perfect: “It’s like this, you see. Sometimes I want to work and then I want to work very hard, but sometimes I don’t want to work at all. People seem to think you have to work all the time, and that I can’t get into my poor head.”
This book was also published under the title Rasmus and the Tramp.
Seacrow Island is the enchanting, quiet story of a family who comes to spend a summer on Seacrow Island. It was illustrated by Robert Hales and translated by Evelyn Ramsden from the Swedish Vi Pa Saltkraken. Of the novels Astrid Lindgren wrote, this is perhaps the longest (nearly 300 pages) and definitely the most realistic so far: its protagonists get into situations that are quite ordinary and nothing overly magical happens except life in summer, which is pretty magical in itself. The heartaches and triumphs weave a subtle but interesting page-turner.
The family consists of a father, Melker, and his children. Melker is a fun father to tag along with. As Lindgren writes, ” Melker loved his children with a fierce, stormy love. Now and then he even thought about them.” He’s generally inept, kept in line only by his oldest child and only daughter Malin, who has become like a mother to her three younger brothers. She’s basically the only non-inept person in the family. The two middle children are pretty normal kids, but the youngest, Pelle, is a kind old soul who cares about everyone and everything. With all these characters we experience life on Seacrow Island.
And what a great place to visit. Between little Tjorven the young girl who pretty much runs the island, the pet seal, Bosun the faithful dog, the near-disasters in rowing, the storms and sunshine, Seacrow Island is a good escape.
When researching this book after reading it, I was astounded to learn that Seacrow Island was based on a TV series that Astrid Lindgren wrote the script for in 1964. She later took these stories and compiled them into a book. The TV series spawned several movies. Nowadays it seems that books are turned into TV shows or movies and not the other way around.
My favorite line: When one is seven years old, one lives dangerously. In the land of childhood, that wild and secret country, one can be on the verge of complete disaster without thinking it is anything special.