The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
I don't remember when I was first introduced to Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking, but it was at a fairly early age; and like many young girls, I was captivated by her free spirit. But Pippi, as she's more widely known, sank deeper into me than I realized. It took rediscovering her, via reading The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking aloud to my daughter, to begin to appreciate her influence. From becoming a Thing-Finder to saying,
We shall see what we shall see, and beyond, there's no doubt my youthful exposure to Pippi helped me become the individualist I am.
The idea of a young girl living with no parents or adult supervision—and doing so quite happily—likely resonated with me. And even though Pippi doesn't always effectively handle interactions with adults, her lack of fear probably helped me overcome my paralyzing shyness. Indeed, while Pippi has several childlike faults, she's also thoughtful, kind, and straightforward in dealing with others; and it's fairly easy for even a child to understand what's worth emulating and what's silly in Pippi.
Pippi is the boisterous foil to her more conventional neighbor children Tommy and Annika through a series of stories, which were published separately but are gathered together in this volume. As good Swedish children, Tommy and Annika serve as near-ideal characters for children used to parental scoldings and insistence upon a bedtime and proper manners to react to Pippi's wide-ranging interests and rejection of useless social convention. From sleeping with her head under the blankets and her feet on the pillow to rejecting the idea that children shouldn't participate in grownup parties, perhaps the most valuable aspect of Pippi's adventures is that they can encourage a child to question the adult world, rather than accept or unthinkingly adopt it. Also, being a complex character rather than a one-note caricature makes Pippi more believable. She is generous but not indiscriminate, and makes mistakes and accepts the consequences.
Perhaps the most valuable thing about Pippi Longstocking to my now adult eyes is that she chooses to be positive. Each day unfolds as a possibility for adventure and learning—a healthy attitude that I've been trying to bring back into my days with only fair success. Rediscovering Pippi's adventures have boosted my record. I don't want to give away any of the stories, so instead I'll say in closing that Astrid Lindgren's rambunctious girl was controversial back in the late 40s and early 50s, and certainly remains so in some circles today. If that isn't enough to recommend Pippi Longstocking to both young and older readers alike, I don't know what is. And I'm eager to explore more of Astrid Lindgren's deep booklist, for myself as much as for my children.