Children’s author Emma Shevah had a great post in The Guardian’s children’s book section last week, detailing why Pippi Longstocking inspired her as a kid, and still does. Here’s a snippet:
What I didn’t realise then is that she’s also a feminist, an optimist and a free thinker. We could all do with being a little more like her. She doesn’t get angry or offended even when she’s insulted. She’s happy with who she is and what she looks like. It’s not awful but “really rather nice” that she doesn’t have parents because there’s “no one to tell her to go to bed just when she’s having the most fun and no one to make her take cod liver oils when she felt like eating peppermints”. She’s generous, champions the downtrodden and amuses her sick friends by doing acrobatics at their window, hugging them and even the wrapping paper when they give her a present.
Surprisingly, I didn’t read the Pippi books as a kid. But I did love Pippi by way of a movie, “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking.” I wore out the VHS tape from watching it so many times.
Shevah suggests that the books you liked as a kid reveal your innate character, and I agree. Like Shevah, I loved Pippi’s nonconformity and her ability to make all of life an adventure. These are qualities that have persisted with me into adulthood (though I’m not sure how much of the latter I’m doing currently). And they’re similar to traits and themes found in other books I loved as a child.
For example, there was “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” by Julie Andrews (yes, the Julie Andrews). I found it through serendipity on the shelf at my middle school library. It’s all about imagination, and I relished it at a time when dances and boy crushes and social awkwardness surrounded me, but I still loved doing creative things like making haunted houses with my friends.
Recently something reminded me of the “Whatif” poem by Shel Silverstein. In 6th grade, my teacher assigned everyone to write our own Whatif poem. Most of the resulting works followed a similar “what if XYZ bad thing happens” format, but for mine, I wrote things like “What if poverty didn’t exist?” and “What if no wars were fought?” (Though I assure you it was in stupendous rhyme.) I wasn’t regularly exposed to social ills as a child, and I don’t from where that poem sprung. But like Shevah’s love of Pippi, it seems telling of my adult concerns. What about you? What books did you love as a kid? Do you think they reflect qualities that are still true of you today? I’d love to know!
P.S. Did you know that there’s an Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and it’s the biggest global prize for children’s authors? I recognize some of the names on the list of laureates, but I want to check out the rest.