Books Elma Family Kitty Pip Reading

One for them and one for me: Books for April

05/04/2016

One for them: Pippi Longstocking 

Space for the Butterflies - a Year in Books - reading Pippi Longstocking and Freya for April

I remember reading Pippi when I was little.  I know I thought her name was pronounced Pie-Pie (though why I have no idea!) and I thought she sounded like the most wonderful and amazing and just this side of totally crazy friend I could ever have had.  I’ve been looking forward to introducing her to the girls, and to Kitty in particular, and when I saw this completely gorgeous version illustrated by Lauren Child (who write and illustrates Charlie and Lola) I knew it was time.

Space for the Butterflies - a Year in Books - reading Pippi Longstocking and Freya for April

Towards the end of last term Kitty was starting to get a bit frustrated and bored with her school reading books so I wanted to tempt her into a new world of chapter books with a few pictures to help the words along; something that she’d love listening too, and then really want to try to read for herself and I think she’s having just as much fun imagining herself tagging along with Tommy and Annika as I did when I was little.

Space for the Butterflies - a Year in Books - reading Pippi Longstocking and Freya for April

But the surprise fan has been Elma.  Pippi Longstocking is clearly Elma’s role model and she loves that book beyond anything I could have imagined, to the point that whenever we read it at bedtime, Elma insists on “reading’ it first – she puts the book in her lap and very slowly traces out the title;

“Pippi … Long … Stocking”

It’s just so very cute and I suspect that when Elma’s turn comes to learn to read she’ll be champing at the bit just to get to Pippi.

Space for the Butterflies - a Year in Books - reading Pippi Longstocking and Freya for April

They are just such fun stories; only a smidgen past believable but full of all of the adventures you’d have liked to have as a child, from chasing policemen up onto the roof to rolling out gingersnaps on the kitchen floor because you were making a lot and you need the space.  Reading them again now there is the odd phrase or two that makes it very much a story of its time, and I’ll admit I do do a little editing while I’m reading just to be consistent with what we ask of the children, but for the most part Pippi is generous, brave and entirely unafraid to stand up for what’s right, and the little ones could do worse as a role model, just as long as they don’t start keeping a horse on the patio!

One for me: Freya

Space for the Butterflies - a Year in Books - reading Pippi Longstocking and Freya for April

I have to admit I heard about Freya because I was listening to the Radio 2 bookclub driving home in the car one day.  I’d missed the beginning of the interview but when Anthony Quinn described her as being a character who’d got under his skin and refused to let him go it made me curious; when a character has that much hold over her author it makes you want to know why.  And so I sat there, parked on the drive, waiting until the book was named, and then made a beeline for the bookshop in my lunchbreak the next day.

It is on the surface the story of a changing world, seen through the eyes of women trying to find their way when all the goalposts were shifting, or at least up for a good challenge.  Freya is 20, newly discharged from the Wrens at the end of WW2 and bound for Oxford. The first part of the story tells of her battle to make sense of Oxford’s timeless sense of how and when and why things should be, when she’s just spent so many years doing things of much more real and immediate consequence than dissecting Anglo-Saxon poetry, and the start of her perhaps unlikely but solid friendship with Nancy; two years her junior, naïve to Freya’s war-weary worldliness but with a similar steely determination to live her dream.

Of the girls, Nancy is the far more likeable, but it’s Freya who is so incredibly compelling that I couldn’t stop reading for wanting to know what she was going to do next.  She’s her own worst enemy; hot headed, prickly, prone to making some spectacularly stupid decisions and I’m not always sure whether I was rooting for her or just wanting to shout “nooooo!” into the pages.  She is vivid and very human and whilst her story, spanning a post-university career sharing a flat with Nancy in Bloomsbury in the 50’s and then jumping forward to her time in a rapidly changing 60’s London, doesn’t tie itself up neatly and present itself to you with a bow, it feels both so very very right, and a little cut short, in the way that all good stories end before you want them to.

SPOILERS: There is a scene involving baby loss in Part 3.  There was a time when I could not bear to read about miscarriage or stillbirth and I hated being surprised by it so I wanted to flag it up.  Apologies if anyone feels it spoils the story.

And with April it makes four books that I’ve read so far this year – which I’m both delighted about and a little ashamed that it’s probably more than I read last year! I’m loving watching my reading list expand and expand again each month so please do link up below and go and say hi to Claire and Katie my lovely co-hosts – happy reading!


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  • Mary 05/04/2016 at 7:17 am

    We love pippi! I still have my childhood copy and it was one of the first books Steve read to Jamie. Admittedly when she got to Canny Canny Island it got a bit beyond our capacity to edit as we read…

    • Carie 05/04/2016 at 2:12 pm

      Ah yes – well at least right now Jamie probably isn’t taking in all of the details so much as enjoying your voices so you may be able to get away with it for a little while!!

  • Preeta Samarasan 05/04/2016 at 7:38 am

    My daughters love that Lauren Child edition of Pippi! I only wish she would do the other books in the series as well. It’s mostly some of the colonialist/racist stuff in the later books that gives me pause, but instead of leaving it out I usually read it and then pause to talk about history (in the simplest terms I can, suitable for a six-year-old :-)) .

    Freya has been on my list since I heard about it, too. I’ll have to check it out.

    • Carie 05/04/2016 at 2:11 pm

      Oh wouldn’t it be nice!! I think I’ve forgotten or never really took on board some of the problem sections from the later books, I think we’ll have to see how old the girls are when we get there; if they’re of an age to understand the difference between the time it was written for and now then it’s a great starting point for a history chat; right now I think it would go over Elma’s head at the very least!

  • Alina 05/04/2016 at 1:30 pm

    Love the illustrations in Pippi! And thank you for Freya book review, I am putting it on my to-read list!

    • Carie 05/04/2016 at 2:06 pm

      Aren’t they gorgeous – I hope they do Lauren Child editions of all the books, she really brings Pippi to life!

  • Bex @ The Mummy Adventure 06/04/2016 at 9:10 pm

    All I can see is Charlie and Lola but I used to love Pippi when I was little and I vividly remember a tv adaption and wanting her hair!

    • Carie 07/04/2016 at 9:06 pm

      I don’t remember a tv version – I might have to stalk YouTube for it!!

  • Jemma@listoflovelythings 06/04/2016 at 11:08 pm

    I loved pippi when I was little and now my little girl has enjoyed them too! However we only read the first one- I didn’t know it was a series but perhaps reading the comments below we should just stick with that one! Freya sounds interesting, thanks for the recommendation!

    • Carie 07/04/2016 at 9:05 pm

      I remember there being more than one when I was little but when I was in the bookshop there were just the original Pippi in various editions – perhaps the others are in an older reader’s section?!

  • Claire @ Clarina's Contemplations 15/04/2016 at 12:18 am

    Oh the old TV adaptation is wonderful Carie! You must hunt it down! Dave is currently reading
    Pippi with the girls (figured it had to be read in Norwegian given that the original is Swedish!) and they can’t get enough of it! Interesting that it is Elma who has particularly taken to it, because here it’s Heidi! She wanders around with her hair in bunches, riding her horse and carrying a little monkey under her arm. Pippi is definitely her heroine right now! A lovely bunch of reviews as always! Sorry I’m SOOOO late!