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Cannibal Kings, Sleeping With Your Feet on Your Pillow, Mischief, and The Strongest Girl in the World


The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking

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.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jessica February 15, 2012, 12:41 pm

    Yes!! I loved Pippi! I had long red hair, so my mom would always dress me up as her – she would put pipe cleaners in my braids to make them stick out, and she sewed me a blue or gray dress with patches on it. We used to have a day at school where we would dress up like book characters.

  • Spencer February 15, 2012, 3:32 pm

    I HATE it when my wife does not respond well to my having encountered another soulmate…

  • Michelle February 15, 2012, 3:35 pm

    I’m a little afraid to admit, I kind of loathed Pippi. My childhood sounds similar to your editor’s. Additionally, I was required by my parents to braid my own hair in two braids, so I was made fun of for being Pippi in school. Maybe one of these days I’ll try the books out again.

  • cinderkeys February 16, 2012, 12:12 am

    Loved the books. I remember being surprised when I got past the first book and found out her father really was still alive. All signs seemed to point toward Pippi not wanting to accept his obvious fate, and that kind of humanized her. If that makes sense.

  • Jeanette February 17, 2012, 12:30 pm

    I absolutely LOVED the Pippi books! She had so much self-confidence, which I didn’t. I was small for my age and somewhat timid, and would have loved to have a friend who turned all my fears on their head and got me out of my shell.

    I once read that of all shades for hair color products, red is the most popular in Utah…hmmmm, could this be the Pippi effect?

  • Jodi Kaplan February 20, 2012, 7:28 am

    Loved Pippi!

    I don’t know about now, but oh maybe 35 years ago red hair products were very popular for older women in Spain. People kept giving me the oddest looks (they apparently weren’t used to redheaded teenagers!).