Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Nook - Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking written by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child:

First, I should tell you that I've never read Pippi until recently, when the Bachsters and I read it together.  So, I don't have the experience of discovering this character though a child's eyes; I had to experience that vicariously through my kiddos.  And I think one of the things that makes Pippi a beloved, timeless character is that she is definitely for kids.  She's like a little-girl-with-red-pigtails superhero.

Pippi's mother has died and her father has disappeared at sea, and she lives alone in her house called Villa Villekulla (best name for a house.....ever).  She actually doesn't live all alone, as she has a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson and a pet horse.  Tommy and Annika are her next door neighbors and they love to visit Pippi, for there is always something fun & exciting happening.

A parent's perspective:
While Pippi is spirited and vivacious, she also has a bit of a death wish.  Honestly.....tussling with a big group of bullies.  Jumping off a cliff to "fly."  Taking on a furious bull.  Dancing with burglars.  The girl has no sense of self preservation (on the flip side to this, she is abnormally strong, so maybe she just knows her own strength).

A child's perspective:
The Bachsters laughed throughout the story at all of Pippi's hijinks.  Sometimes, they rolled their eyes and said, "oh, Pippi!"  But they loved every minute of it, because as I mentioned, this book is strictly for kids.  Pippi gets to do what kids all want to do, like show bullies a lesson, or go straight up to the haunted attic and not be afraid of the ghosts.  Or always get her way with grown-ups and get to eat pancakes a lot.  It's really the same idea as Superman or Batman or any superhero: we are living out a fantasy through them, and we can't be too bothered with the reality of it all. 

With that in mind, some parents might need to caution (continuously) when reading this book to their kids ("now you know you should listen to police officers and do as they ask," for example).  But the trade-off is well worth it, because Pippi is such an enjoyable book with a memorable, one-of-a-kind protagonist.  And while Pippi does many things that might make parents cringe, there is are valuable lessons learned in her adventures, like self-esteem, confidence & independence.

Honestly, one thing I disliked about the book was the attitude towards education.  Pippi says, "I've been fine for nine years without any pluttification tables."  The feeling that the reader is left with is that education is not necessary (the teacher gives up on her and tells her she can come back one day, when she is older and better behaved, if she wishes).  And that's it: she tried one day to go to school, interrupted class repeatedly, left and that's the last of her education that the reader sees.  I know Pippi is supposed to be a free spirit, but I think it would have been cool if she was an educated free spirit.  And there's also a part at the end of the book where Pippi finds her father's old pistols and shoots a hole in the ceiling.  You can see how this won't really translate to modern parents' views.  However, with this (and the education issue), it's important to remember that Pippi is a superhero - what kid wouldn't like to live in a fantasy world of no school and running around, pretending to be a pirate, if just for a short time?  The key here is that it just can't be taken too seriously!

We all loved this version of Pippi illustrated by Lauren Child, who also created the very fun Charlie and Lola.  If you're familiar with her work on those stories (also turned into a show), you can definitely see the similarities between Pippi and Lola.  Both live in their own little world and have a clever way of handling any problems that come their way.  I wouldn't mind checking out some of the other versions of Pippi, though,  because I read that this version's translation can differ from some of the others.

Check out Pippi - your perspective may be different from your child's, but everyone will find something to love about this unique character in literature.  Tiddly-pom and piddly-dee!


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