Monday, May 28, 2007
This week, I came home from the library with a stack of old friends (Knight's Castle, Pippi Goes Aboard) and a stack of new reads (Peter and the Starcatchers, The Wide Window).
(One of the perks to writing for kids is that you call this kind of reading "research")
And I had every intention of reading the Dave Barry Book. Really I did. But despite the awful new cover (why do publishing houses do that, put tacky new covers on classic books?) I couldn't resist Pippi.
So last night I re-read Pippi, and I have to say that I was a little surprised by the book, after all these years. Because now I'm a mom.
And I'd forgotten that Pippi is-- in addition to being a wonderfully funny liar, the strongest person in the world, and a delightful red-haired orphan living all on her own in a funny abandoned house in small-town Sweden-- also the greatrest fear of every overprotective neurotic GenX parent in the world.
Seriously, if you happen to be someone who wipes your kid's hands down with Purell, baby-proofs the laundry baskets, and reads informative websites about carseat recalls... then stay away from Pippi.
Yes, Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking is your nightmare. She'll move in next door and tempt your overly-protected children to abandon their senses. She'll teach them to climb into cages at the zoo, swim without water-wings, talk to all kinds of strangers, drink unidentified bottles of medicine, light fires, climb trees, and even (horrors!) eat lots and lots of high-risk-choking-candy.
Pippi doesn't do her homework, listen to silly grownups, or wear the proper undergmarments. She doesn't have a babysitter. She doesn't listen.
And of course I love her.
Because she doesn't teach lessons. Not at all. We don't learn anything from Pippi, except maybe that life is odd and people are interesting. Even the best (non-pulp) book for kids today tend to sneak a little morality into the mix, and Pippi doesn't. Pippi defies lesson-learning at every turn.
Which might lead one to assume there's a lesson of rebellion in the book...
Except that there isn't. Tommy and Anica (Pippi's little neighbors) are as tidy and well-behaved as the cobblestones in their little Swedish town. And she loves them as they are. They're timid and clean and polite and they do what they're told, and that's okay too. That's fine.
See? No lesson...
Of course, the book is also just totally genius in its dialogue. In the development of Pippi's (fairly complex) character. In its amazing use of humor.
But most of all, today... now... as a mom living in the age of spill-proof-eveything, handi-naps, and splinter-free toddlers... I love Pippi for being everything we fear.
Dangerous and rude and rebellious and filthy and precarious and accidental. And unafraid.
And I love timid Tommy and Anica for loving her, in their little pressed shirts.
So maybe that's a lesson.