Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pippi Longstocking

Last night I finished Pippi Longstocking. I had never read it before.

I mentioned this briefly here: as far as I can tell, Pippi Longstocking is the ONLY children's book included in the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list (2008 edition - not included on 2006 list). This bothers me. If we are going to start included children's books on such a list, that is fine, but there are many others that would come to mind before Pippi Longstocking. What about Winnie-the-Pooh? Charlotte's Web? Even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe isn't included. WHY ONLY PIPPI?

The editors of the 1,001 list revamped it in 2008 to address criticism that it was too Anglo-centric. So they took out all these classics of Western literature - Dickens, Faulkner, Austen, Woolf, and added all these non-Anglo texts to the list. (There isn't anything inherently wrong with that, but see my reasoning here, here and here for why the editors didn't go about it in the right way.) The only explanation I can come up with for the appearance of Pippi in that misguided reshuffle is that someone thought - we don't have enough Swedes on here! And put Pippi Longstocking on there to fill that gap (for those wondering, the 2008 ed. included nine books by Swedes; five of those nine were not included in the 2006 edition). With that logic, I can see why they left off all those other great children's books that I mentioned - because they are all written by British or American men, which clearly didn't fit their new model.

I know I should get so frustrated with a silly book list, but I take these things seriously. They chopped The Brothers Karamozov, The Sound and the Fury, and Pilgrim's Progress off the list, and added Pippi Longstocking. There is something very wrong with that. Not all baseball players deserve to be at Cooperstown, if you know what I mean, even if they are decent.


Arukiyomi said...

bizarre... I'm currently reading this, having bought it recently for my niece. There are a number of children's books on the list: Treasure Island, Tarka the Otter and Day of the Triffids spring to mind. It's hard to say where the boundary between children and adult lies though e.g. Alice in Wonderland.

BTW, there's a recently published edition of 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.

Kristin said...

I agree that there is sometimes a fuzzy line between children/adult books, incluing two you pointed out: Treasure Island and Alice in Wonderland. However, those novels are not "marketed" exclusively to children. You can find (often simplified) versions of them in the children's reading section and in the adult section as well. I could make that argument for Moby Dick, for example, as well - I read a simplified, abridged version in fourth grade (with illustrations on every other page). On the other hand, Pippi Longstocking can be found exclusively in the children's section.

I don't know anything about Tarka the Otter, so I cannot comment on that one. I did notice that you recently wrote in your own review of PL that it may be the only book on the list a 7 year old could read. There may be other exclusively children's books on the list, but none that I recognized.