Saturday, May 22, 2010

Karlson on the Roof

One of our good friends brought over her childhood copy of Astrid Lindgren's Karlson on the Roof, and spent many months reading a chapter every time she came over, until finally it was done.  What a delightful story!  Of course, it would have been better if we had been able to read it all at once, but as it was, it was a special time with Evalina and our friend.

The Story:  Midge (it seems like in later versions, his name is translated to Smidge... or maybe our friend's copy was just the British version... I will use Midge, because that was his name in our book) is alone in his bedroom, when he is astounded and delighted to see a little man hovering outside of the window!  This is his introduction to Karlson on the Roof, the world's best trickster, the world's best babysitter, the world's best dog owner, the world's best crook chaser, and the world's most interesting friend.  Karlson has a propeller and can fly, and he lives (you guessed it) on the roof.  He leads Midge on some wonderful adventures, some downright naughty, and they have a wonderful time.  The trouble is, no one else in Midge's family believes that Karlson exists, because he always flies away at the moment before they are going to meet him.  But Karlson isn't just an imaginary friend, he's real.  By the end of the story, he makes sure that everyone knows he's there.

The Good:  It's Astrid Lindgren, and she is always a winner.  Her writing is clever and witty and funny.  Karlson left us all giggling at his antics many times.  Midge is a sweet kid, and all he wants is a dog of his own, and of course, to have fun with Karlson.  The minor characters are funny, too.  Evalina remembered a lot of details from early in the book that I was sure she might have forgotten, since it took so long for our friend to read it with her.  I always like that.

The Bad:  Karlson is really really naughty and he eggs Midge on to do naughty things, as well.  I think it is written in such a way that it is obvious to children that Karlson is not someone to be emulated. 

The Verdict:  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and Evalina did, too.  It is 176 pages long, so it isn't a behemoth.  That's nice.  I would say that it's not as clever or fun as Pippi, but it was enjoyable.  A great read for any Astrid Lindgren fan.

Little House in the Big Woods

Some of Evalina's good friends got her the first two books in the Little House series for her birthday.  We just finished the first one - Little House in the Big Woods. I watched the Little House on the Prairie show as a child, but never got around to reading the books, so I'm enjoying this quite a lot as well!

The Story: Laura Ingalls is the young daughter of a pioneer family. She lives with her parents, her older sister Mary, and her baby sister Carrie, in a (you guessed it) little house in the big woods in Wisconsin.  She had never been to a town.  She has no concept of neighbors like we do.  The story of this book lays some great historical basis about what everyday family life was like, how they worked to make and catch their food, and more.

The Good:  The detail is fantastic. I want to make butter and cheese and Johnycakes and tap trees and make maple syrup and maple sugar.  Laura and her family are written vibrantly (not surprising, since they were real people), and I think it got Evalina more interested in history. Really thinking about what it was like before there were cars and electricity and 24-hour grocery stores was a very positive thing.  We take so much for granted.

The Bad:  Some of the things portrayed are a little raw for a sensitive modern kid.  Still, it's good for her to know about them.  She was alarmed by all the hunting (even though her daddy hunts), and some other things led us to some very frank discussions.  The fact that Pa smoked a pipe was a problem for her, but I explained that they had no idea that tobacco was bad for you, so many people smoked.  Good history lessons all around, so these things are not really "bad."

The Verdict: Wonderful, and we can't wait to read the next one!  I truly enjoyed it, and want to try some of the "pioneer" recipes and crafts.  When we get to the Little House on the Prairie, I'm looking forward to sharing the television series with Evalina.  The book is 238 pages long and recommended for ages 8-12, and I would agree with that. Evalina's 7, but a very advanced reader, so it was no trouble for her.  (We did read it together - she read a couple paragraphs per page)  I would recommend this series to anyone.  As you can see with our reading history, most of what we have read is fantastical, and I am thrilled to be reading something more historical, to get some enthusiasm for that into her.  Next!