Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Book Review: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (1945)

Pippi Longstocking, a spirited young girl, lives alone in a house in Sweden called Villa Villekulla with only her monkey and her horse for company. When she meets her neighbors Tommy and Annika, some attempts are made to get Pippi into school or a children's home, but it soon becomes clear to everyone that this unusual child, who fights off robbers and jumps into circus acts is probably better off on her own.

I didn't have a lot of patience for misbehavior and over-the-top silliness as a kid, so I never wanted to read this book. My kids, however, have a much greater tolerance for characters who are not completely serious and realistic, so I decided to bite the bullet and read this book aloud to them. (My main audience was my oldest daughter, age 4.5, but my middle daughter, age 2.5, also listened in.) Alas, even though my kids adored this book and now pretend to be Pippi on a fairly regular basis, I found the reading experience excruciating.

I guess I can understand the appeal of a child who defies authority and lives life on her own terms if you're the kind of person who is uncomfortable with rules and who dreams of greater freedom. (My four-year-old is such a person.) I, on the other hand, thrive on rules and order and mostly just wished that some adult would pin Pippi down and get her to start living more conventionally. And I think what frustrated me most is that Annika and Tommy, who basically represent the point of view of the child reader in the story, weren't more troubled by her, or at least more skeptical about her way of life. As a mom, I also wasn't sure my own kids needed anymore incentive to disobey rules, though I haven't seen any changes in their behavior (or levels of misbehavior) since we read the book.

We have an omnibus collection of three Pippi books, but I don't think I can stomach anymore of them as read-alouds. I have decided that, if the girls are interested, they can read them independently when they're ready, or listen to them as audiobooks. Generally, when it comes to picture books, I'll read even the ones I'm sick of, because the time investment is so minimal, but with a book this long, I just can't put myself through it. In most cases, the books I refused as a kid turn out to be great reads I wish I hadn't missed. Pippi Longstocking, however, is just not on that list.

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