Okay, this is hardly new, I know. I’m not sure if I read this when I was a kid, but I remember there being a movie that came out when I was young, and apparently that was good enough that I still have the theme song stuck in my head decades later. I just finished reading Pippi Longstocking to my eight-year-old, who exclusively reads graphic novels on her own but loves to have chapter books read to her at night. We alternate a classic story with something new, and her dad reads one then I read the next one. (He’s way better at voices, but I read at the best pace.) Anyway, this was my turn, and I picked up this version of Pippi, illustrated by Lauren Child, who wrote the Charlie & Lola series as well as other great stuff. I’d actually tried to read it before and neither of us really went for it, but this time round we both loved it to absolute pieces. Jeez, Pippi is funny. Today, when I got to the end, I brought it out to the lounge room and read my favourite bits to my partner while giggling, and then I gave the book a little hug at the end and he said, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen you react like that for ages.’ (Probably because I spend most of my time reading crime books for work, and in those somebody usually dies at the start and a “happy” ending usually ends up with only three more people dead before the last page.)
So Pippi is a young girl with red pigtails that stick straight out the side of her head and whose father is off to sea, which means she is therefore living entirely on her own in her house, Villa Villekula. Well, not entirely alone, because that would be unrealistic. She alsolives with a monkey and a horse.
She’s also super-strong, completely bold, and like nobody you’ve ever read. If you’ve ever wished you could just kind of do whatever you wanted all the time, even those weird things that pop into your head for no reason, then Pippi’s your woman. She defeats a strongman at the circus. She has an attic full of ghosts, maybe. She tells two men who are burgling her house that of course they can take her many gold coins. She gets into a chase with police. She does what the heck she wants, and it’s a total delight. Tommy and Annika, two quite normal kids who live next door, think she’s the best thing in the world, and they’re basically right.
Obviously there were still great ideas and brilliant writers in the olden days, but I think we all know there’s a lot of very…uh…gentle stuff from back then, and lots of classics have a real olden-days vibe to them. (Enid Blyton, I’m looking at you.) This story is complete chaos, and Astrid Lindgren wrote it in 1945–seventy-five years ago! Except for the fact that nobody has phones, the whole thing could be written now.
There are so many good books around now, but it’s strange to think that maybe not all of them–maybe not even your very favourite book–will be around and still read in seventy-five years. Great stuff just keeps being released and it’s hard to keep up! So many brilliant books don’t make it into repeated printings and might fade away. But they’re still around, somewhere–maybe next time you’re at an opshop, give something a bit strange looking a go. Maybe it’s a forgotten classic. Maybe it will blow your mind like Pippi did to mine.