Book Review: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Book Review: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

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Pippi is a nine-year-old girl who lives by herself in Villa Villekula with her pet monkey and horse. Along with her friends, Annika and Tommy, she bakes cookies on the floor, defeats bullies, tells tall tales, and collects treasures. Pippi constantly finds herself in trouble while attempting to attend school and tea parties but also possesses unusual strength and the ability to charm robbers. Pippi Longstocking is the day-to-day chronicles of an eccentric girl.

I read this title in school in second grade, but Pippi Longstocking is designated more for third to sixth graders. Pippi plays with pistols and tramps roam the streets at night. Glanzman draws Pippi as an impish looking girl, and her red hair and freckles set her apart from her Swedish friends. This otherness is furthered in the way that Lindgren describes other cultures. Like Dahl, she crosses the line into racism—although brushing “differences” off with the idea that Pippi jests and lies—describing how Egyptians walk backwards, Guatemalans sleep with their feet on the pillow, Argentinians are forbidden to have lessons, and Congolese lie all day. While this is considered a classic that received praise for humor that would appeal so well with children, I’d love a rewrite. Granted, I am reading a much older version, but the text has not changed. I appreciate Pippi’s spunkiness, and I love that she teaches Tommy and Annika to have fun. Being a child is important, and I laugh as Pippi mockingly drinks coffee from a tree. Unfortunately, her ignorance is borderline obnoxious and the modern day racism is not something I’m thrilled to recommend for younger children. I cannot get behind some of the values in this book, but I like the whimsical play.

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From my older version, I just don’t think this illustration would fly these days.

Pippi Longstocking written by Astrid Lindgren, translated by Florence Lamborn, and illustrated by Louis S. Glanzman (Puffin Books, 1978); title originally published in Sweden in 1945 and 1950 in the United States

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