100 Chapter Books Project: Pippi Longstocking

Pippi_Långstrump

I just realized that only two books on the Top 100 Chapter Books list were translated from other languages — The Little Prince and this one, Pippi Longstocking (1950) by Astrid Lindgren.

What it’s about: Pippi is a possible orphan (her mother died and her father washed overboard his ship) so she goes to live in the house her father bought in Sweden, Villa Villekulla. She brings along a suitcase full of gold and Mr. Nilsson, a monkey. She quickly meets the children next door–Tommy and Annika–and they all begin having adventures together.

Age level: Grades 1-3

Best part: Pippi is the best. She does what she wants, she’s generous, she’s strong, and she has her own horse and monkey. She doesn’t think or act like other kids and everyone eventually accepts that. She is fully her own person.

Worst part: There’s some light stereotyping of cultures from around the world but Pippi also admittedly lies about those cultures so kids will likely just group everything into the “lie” category.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

I loved this book as a kid (and the others in the series), I loved it when Z and I read it together a decade ago, and I loved it now. Pippi just makes me smile. She seems simple but she outsmarts everyone who means to do her harm. This isn’t a must-read for any reason but it’s a should read just for fun. It might even help neuro-atypical kids feel empowered.

I’ll be reading Anne of Green Gables for only the second time so I look forward to that next!

*****
Schedule – February through March
February 28 – #8 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908)
March 15 – #1 Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952)
March 31 – Project Wrap-Up!

100 Chapter Books Project: The Tale of Despereaux

The_Tale_of_Despereaux

The last modern book that I’m reading from the Top 100 Chapter Books list is The Tale of Despereaux (2003) by Kate DiCamillo. It was originally released with a very long subtitle–Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread–that seems to have been lost with time. The subtitle isn’t even mentioned in Wikipedia or on DiCamillo’s own webpage.

What it’s about: If you happen to get a copy with the subtitle intact, you will automatically know at least some of what this book is about. Despereaux Tilling is a very tiny mouse, born to a French mama in a castle, home to a Princess who lost her mother when a rat fell into her soup and gave her a heart attack. The King subsequently hates rats, bans soup, and makes the castle a rather gloomy place. Also in the castle are rats, a dungeon, and servants, some of whom really miss soup.

Age level: Grades 2-4

Best part: I love how Despereaux can read and is therefore the kindest, gentlest, and most loving of the mice.

Worst part: I just didn’t really like the way things went for Miggery Sow, the servant girl who used to be a slave, sold by her own father for a tablecloth and some other odds and ends. She is made ugly and deaf by repeated hits upside the head but I don’t see why this had to make her dumb and mean. She is somewhat redeemed by the end but even that was a mixed blessing as she ends up back with the father who sold her.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

I thought the book was okay but there was a certain something that was missing, perhaps because the story moves focus between the various characters and so you never get to know any of them very well. Still, there are a lot of good morals to pull out of the story and I think a teacher could really bring the story to life in a classroom.

I am so excited to be reading Pippi Longstocking again! The last time I read it was when Z was a preschooler. Since I’ll be pulling out my big collection volume, I might read more than just the first story.

*****
Schedule – February through March
February 15 – #91 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (1950)
February 28 – #8 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908)
March 15 – #1 Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952)
March 31 – Project Wrap-Up!

100 Chapter Books Project: Betsy-Tacy

betsytacy

Right in the middle of the Top 100 Chapter Books is Betsy-Tacy (1940) by Maud Hart Lovelace. As this is the start of a semi-autobiographical series that began as bedtime stories to the author’s daughter, it has a lot of heart and obvious love for the characters.

What it’s about: Betsy has been waiting for another five year old girl to move on to her street and soon Tacy’s family obliges by buying the house directly across from them. After a hiccup or two, the girls become fast friends, having fun and helping each other through everything from the first day of school to the loss of a sibling.

Age level: Grades 2-4

Best part: I loved that the story explored the highs and lows of childhood. Nothing was dwelled on over-long but everything seemed to be given the right weight.

Worst part: Possibly the Catholic family with a dozen kids but it was just a passing annoyance and, as the characters were based on real families, I’m not sure it can be considered a stereotype. There really wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy about this story! 

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

This really was a lovely little story. From the girls dressing up and going “calling”, complete with Betsy’s mother’s calling cards, to their entrepreneurial experiments (selling sand in jars that had been colored with leftover Easter egg dye), I found the girls charming. They weren’t faultless but nothing they did or had happen to them was simply for drama’s sake. I’m actually quite intrigued by the fact that the series of thirteen books was written for readers to continue aging along with the characters, ending with Betsy’s Wedding, a YA book. I’m sure that I will end up grabbing the rest of this series at random over the years when I need small, uplifting filler reads.

I think I’ve read The Tale of Despereaux before but I can’t remember for sure because there is a movie version that I know I’ve watched with Z. I do love other Kate DiCamillo books though so I’m sure it will be a good read! Then I have three favorites saved for the end of the project, rereads that I know I will enjoy.

*****
Schedule – January through March
January 31 – #51 The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (2003)
February 15 – #91 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (1950)
February 28 – #8 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908)
March 15 – #1 Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952)
March 31 – Project Wrap-Up!