Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Travel the World: Sweden: Pippi Longstocking

Lindgren, Astrid. 2007*. Pippi Longstocking. Translated by Tiina Nunnally. Illustrated by Lauren Child.

Pippi Longstocking is a book that my mother read as a child. But a book that I never encountered until just recently. I couldn't wait to read this newly translated and newly illustrated edition of the book.

Here is the reader's first introduction to Pippi:
On the outskirts of a tiny little town was a neglected garden. In the garden stood an old house, and in that house lived Pippi Longstocking. She ws nine years old, and she lived there all alone. She had no mother or father, which was actually quite nice, because it meant that no one could tell her that she had to go to bed just when she was having the most fun. And no one could make her take cod liver oil when she would rather eat candy. (7)
But Pippi isn't all alone in the world. No, she lives with a monkey, Mr. Nilsson, and a horse which she keeps on her porch. Her two bestest friends are her neighbors Tommy and Annika. (These two kids live with their parents of course.) Pippi's free spiritedness is juxtaposed with the more traditional rule-bound lives of her two closest friends.

There are many many ways that Pippi bends all the rules, stretches the reader's imagination to the limits. But Pippi is not meant to be believable. She is a fibber--a self-proclaimed storyteller. Pippi can and will do anything she sets out to do. No matter how unrealistic.

Pippi Longstocking is quite a character. Very charming. Very funny. Very unique. Definitely a one-of-a-kind heroine.

Here is her exchange with a police officer who's worried about her:
"Yes, but don't you realize that you have to go to school?" said the policeman.
"Why do I have to go to school?"
"To learn things, of course."
"What sort of things?" asked Pippi.
"All kinds of things," said the officer. "Lots of useful things, like the multiplication tables, for instance."
"I've been fine for nine years without any pluttification tables," said Pippi. "And I'm sure I can manage in the future, too."
"Yes, but think how sad it will be for you to be so ignorant. What about when you grow up and someone happens to ask you what the capital of Portugal is and you can't answer?"
"Of course I can answer," said Pippi. "I'll just answer like this: If you're so desperately anxious to know what the capital of Portugal is, then by all means write a letter to Portugal and ask them!"
"But don't you think you'd feel silly that you couldn't answer the question yourself?"
"That's possible. Occasionally I might lie awake at night and wonder over and over: What on earth is the capital of Portugal? But you can't expect that things will always be fun," said Pippi, as she went into a handstand and stayed there for a moment. "Besides, I've been to Lisbon with my pappa," she went on as she stood upside down, because that didn't stop her from talking. (45-46)
Eventually the reader does see Pippi go to school--for one brief day. (Much to the teacher's relief!) Pippi has many adventures within the book. And each has its charm.

What I will most remember Pippi for is her fibs. Her fabricated storytelling that is amazingly entertaining.
"Give me the schools in Argentina any time," said Pippi, sounding a bit haughty as she looked down at the children. "You should try going there. Easter vacation starts only three days after Christmas vacation ends, and when Easter vacation is over, there are three days until summer vacation starts. Summer vacation ends on the first of November, and then, of course, it's quite a while before Christmas vacation starts on November eleventh. But it's bearable because at least there's no homework. It's strictly forbidden to do homework in Argentina. Sometimes an Argentinean boy might sneak into a cupboard and sit there and secretly do homework, but I feel sorry for him if his mother finds out. They don't have any arithmetic in the schools there. If anyone knows how much seven plus five is, and if he's silly enough to mention it to the teacher, he has to stand in the corner all day long. Reading is something they do only on Fridays, and then only if they have some books to read. But they never do."
"Well, what do they do at school then?" asked a little boy.
"They eat candy," said Pippi firmly. "There's a long pipe that goes from the nearby candy factory straight to the classroom, and candy comes gushing out all day long, so the kids can hardly keep up with eating it."
"But what does the teacher do?" asked a girl.
"She unwraps the candy for the children, silly," said Pippi. "You don't really think they do that themselves, do you? Hardly! And they don't actually go to school themselves either. They send their brothers."
Pippi swung her big hat.
"Bye now, kids, she shouted happily. "You won't be seeing me for a while, but don't ever forget how many apples Axel had or you'll be sorry. Ha ha ha!" (69-71)
You can easily see why Pippi might be a distraction in the classroom!

*Pippi Longstocking was published in Sweden in 1945. It was first translated into English and published in the U.S.A. in 1950. But this edition of Pippi Longstocking was newly translated in 2007.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sarah Miller said...

This edition kicks butt -- the art especially. It's got just the right combination of whimsy and edge.

Beth F said...

I haven't read this book in decades, but remember loving it. I'm going to have to see if my library has this edition. I'd love to see the art. Thanks for the review.

Carrie said...

I haven't read this one either. Wasn't there a television series based on Pippi way back when? I have a vague recollection . . .

Sarah M. said...

Thanks for your review. I remember seeing a TV episode or movie based off the books and I HATED Pippi... but the book sounds like it'd be much better. There were various reasons I hated the Pippi movie, but I know the poor dubbing was a major one.

Anonymous said...

I so need to get that book! I loved Pippi Longstocking as a child. I had no idea there was a newly translated version out.

dining room tables said...

I think I have that book in my library but I haven't read it. I never thought that it is this good. I need to find it. I am so interesting in reading it.

Wall Mirrors Gal said...

I wonder why Pippi did not make my childhood reading list. I have been thinking about reading a classic and now I have some inspiration. Thank you.