I was helping a mother at the library when her little girl started wandering toward the stairs.
“Astrid!” she said. “Come back here!”
I laughed. “Did you name her after Astrid Lindgren?”
“Of course! Who else?”
From such moments are soul-mates made. I went down to the children’s section and checked out a copy of The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, which includes the eponymous first book, Pippi Goes on Board, and Pippi in the South Seas.
Later that night I was telling my wife that I had met my soulmate at the library. When she was less than enthusiastic by my wording, I revised the story (“someone who could have been my soulmate, if I wasn’t already impossibly happy”) and learned to my horror that my own wife had never read the Pippi Longstocking books, written by Astrid Lindgren.
Did you ever read Pippi?
It had been a long time since I had. I immediately remembered why I had adored them as a child. If you’re unfamiliar with Pippi, here’s a quick breakdown:
- She lives all alone in a house called Villa Villeku
- She had red braids that stick straight out.
- She possesses superhuman strength–she can lift her horse with one hand
- She lies a lot, but it is usually in the form of a tall tale
- She sleeps with her feet on her pillow and her head at the bottom of the bed. I tried this after reading the stories as a child and was disappointed when it didn’t work
- If she targeted an adult for some sort of comeuppance, it was generally because the adult was mean/condescending/dismissive/ of children
- Her father, Ephraim Longstocking, was lost at sea, but resurfaces later on a faraway island. Oh, and he has become the king of the cannibals
- She lives next to two uptight kids who share most of her adventures in the books
Also, the illustrations in the books are wonderful.
My editor told me a hilarious story about her own straight-laced childhood when we talked about Pippi’s misbehavior. She said she couldn’t read the books. They made her “too agitated.” She was “Always horrified at Pippi’s misbehavior” and was always “waiting for her to be punished horribly when she was rude to an adult, or didn’t clean her room, or caused a disruption at the circus when she fought the strongman.”
If you have kids reading chapter books, I highly recommend Pippi. But it doesn’t mean you have to let your kids sleep with their feet on their pillow or toss you around with one hand or lie constantly, so don’t let it get out of hand.