Emil and the Great Escape, Emil and the Sneaky Rat and Emil’s Clever Pig

Emil and the Great Escape
Emil and the Sneaky Rat
Emil’s Clever Pig

Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Mini Grey
Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press are gradually re-issuing Astrid Lindgren’s books for a new generation of children to enjoy and now it’s the turn of the high-spirited young Emil who lives with his family on Katthult farm in the Swedish village of Lönneberga.

In the first book of stories Emil gets up to all manner of mischief and derring-do – he manages to get his head well and truly stuck in a soup tureen; then he hoists his younger sister Ida up the flagpole,

and disobeys parental instructions by riding an old mare to the village fete.

In the second, Emil continues to drive his parents and others in the neighbourhood crazy with further scrapes. There’s the time he attempts to snare a rat in a trap and something else gets caught instead. Then having somehow managed to get through the whole of Christmas Day without misbehaving, Emil decides to hold a Boxing Day party, which turns out to be a party like no other.

There are six more Emil adventures in Emil’s Clever Pig including those on one fateful Sunday in June when he makes three disastrous attempts to pull the ‘maidservant’ Lina’s tooth out and decides to give Ida a dose of typhus by means of blue paint.

Then there’s that frog in the picnic basket episode one hardly dares to mention; followed by several days when the lad does some good things but can’t manage to sustain this goodness, for he gets carried away with locking doors and unthinkingly locks his father up in the Trisse hut (aka the old privy).

Finally, it’s almost Christmas again and Emil does something very brave and quite dangerous to save the life of farmworker, Alfred.

Mini Grey’s spirited illustrations are just right for bringing these stories to a new audience of young listeners and readers.

Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard & Pippi Longstocking in the South Seas

Pippi Longstocking
Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard
Pippi Longstocking in the South Seas

Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Mini Grey
Oxford University Press

I absolutely loved these stories as a child more years ago than I care to remember, and thanks to these new editions splendidly illustrated by Mini Grey and translated by Susan Beard, I find that red-headed rule-breaking Pippi – the ‘strongest girl in the world’ –clad still in her odd (one black and one brown) stockings, has lost none of her wildness and charm.

Nine-year old Pippi lives sans parents in Villa Villekulla – mum is an angel and dad a South Sea Island king she proudly announces. With Pippi lives her monkey Mr Nilsson (a present from her dad), while on her veranda lives her very own horse.

In the first book Pippi meets and makes friends with neighbours Tommy and Annika, gets the better of some bully boys, outthinks some police who come a visiting, is persuaded to go to school (briefly) and gets a bit carried away with her drawing, does some entertaining up an oak tree,

rides bareback at the circus and more.

The second book sees Pippi joining school again – but only to provide the ‘jollification’ on an outing. Other adventures include a face-to-face encounter with a tiger and a surprise visit from Pippi’s dad. Finally Pippi has the chance to accompany her father on his travels. Will she bid farewell to Annika and Tommy and sail away or remain at Villa Villekulla? It’s a difficult choice to make …

The third title is the last of the original Pippi books. Herein Pippi organises a quiz

and then as autumn turns to winter, she invites Tommy and Annika, (both recovering from measles), to accompany her on a trip to the island where her father is king.

As always there are escapades galore including when Pippi seizes a shark, gives it a good telling off and then hurls it back into the ocean. She also manages to protect the island pearls from a pair of would-be thieves and generally have a wonderful time – until Tommy and Annika decide they want to go home for Christmas. They don’t actually make it in time but as always, Pippi finds a way and they don’t miss out altogether on the festivities.

(Happily the mention of cannibals from the original tales has gone but the anarchic Pippi – celebrating her 75th anniversary this year – will surely never lose her power to delight.)

Meet Pippi Longstocking / Pippi Longstocking and the Snirkle Hunt

Meet Pippi Longstocking
Pippi Longstocking and the Snirkle Hunt
Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Ingrid Vang Nyman
Oxford University Press

2020 sees the 75th anniversary of the publication of the first Pippi Longstocking book and as part of the celebrations OUP is releasing six new early reader, illustrated editions with Ingrid Vang Nymans’s illustrations rendered in two colours in each book, using adaptations of the original text by Astrid Lindgren.
The first two are Meet Pippi Longstocking, which introduces youngsters to the inimitable Pippi and her world and that in which Pippi invents the wonderful-sounding word “snirkle’ the meaning of which she tells her friends Tommy and Annika, she has no idea except that it’s not dustbin lid. Thus we have the second title, Pippi Longstocking and the Snirkle Hunt.

Clearly Pippi needs to discover what this brand new word of hers means and that’s exactly what, after a few moments of contemplation she sets out to do.

It proves not to be the sound made when you trample in mud making it come up between your toes: that she decides is SHBLURP and heads off, gold coin in hand, riding her horse Mr Nillson, to the shops with her friends, to see if it’s something that can be bought.
Several unsuccessful shop visits later,

she heads to the doctor’s but that yields nothing helpful.

Nor does the intrusion she makes upon two ladies sitting chatting over a cuppa up in a flat.

Will the determined young miss ever solve her snirkle conundrum? Perhaps it’s closer to home than she thinks …

For the adult me, nine year old Pippi, with her mismatched stockings, carroty-coloured hair and freckles, has lost none of the allure she had in my childhood – an unstoppable self-belief, determination, resilience and kindness and lots of terrific adventures.

I can’t wait to introduce her, through these smashing little books to a new generation of young readers.  Long live Pippi!