Book Review: Pippi Won’t Grow Up

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Astrid Lindgren & Ingrid Vang Nyman, 56 pgs, Drawn & Quarterly, drawnandquarterly.com, $14.95 

If you only have a dim memory of Pippilotta Victualia Windowhade Curlymint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking, this beautiful book will re-introduce you to a true cultural force. Pippi Won’t Grow Up is Drawn & Quarterly’s third collection of Pippi Longstocking comics from the late 1950s. Written by Astrid Lindgren and drawn by Ingrid Vang Nyman, the original writer and illustrator of the classic Pippi Longtocking books, these comics deliver a concentrated super-dose of Vitamin Pippi straight to the bloodstream.

Pippi, a little girl who just happens to be the strongest person in the world, is a classic Trickster figure, a Chaos Agent, a Counter-Revolutionary in the Bugs Bunny sense : “I will do no harm until you mess with me, and then WATCH OUT!” In this volume, Pippi clashes with too-strict teachers, greedy land developers, uptight society types, pearl thieves, and a shark. Needless to say, none of them are a match for Pippi’s Herculean Sass.

Pippi is still a kid, though: full of imagination, confusion and strong feelings. In one sequence, Pippi saves her friend Tommy from being eaten by a shark and then stands on the beach crying. “Are you crying because Tommy almost died?” “No, I’m crying because that poor little shark won’t get any breakfast today,” she responds. Lindgren’s focus on keeping Pippi a real kid instead of a Godlike Superbeing gives these stories their heart.

There were moments when I wondered about the violence (and there is plenty of that, because Pippi Longstocking don’t take no guff), but the world can be a violent place, and reading to children about a girl who knows how to stand up for herself and her friends can only be a good thing. Long Live Pippi! (A.G. Pasquella)

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