Pippi Longstocking is the world’s strongest girl. She lives alone (except for her monkey Mr. Nilsson and horse, Horse) while she waits for her pirate papa to be done sailing the seven seas. She is quite content to live alone, doing as she pleases, although she is curious as to how normal people live—she just can’t quite get the hang of it. Her neighbors, Tommy and Anika, two average children from an average family, try to give lessons to Pippi on how to behave, with mixed success.
These comic collections are a direct transcription of the chapters of the books. Because of that, sometimes the action seems a little confusing. That is, without the narrative explaining that Pippi has been raised by an unconventional pirate father, it makes no sense that she has no manners and behaves oddly. Some of this can be written off as the nature of a kids book—the odd and unexplainable is often just accepted as fact in a child’s world. But some of it just feels like sloppy story development. It is possible to put in some narrative background without adding large blocks of text to your graphic novel. Here it feels more like Nyman just transcribed without translating the book from words to images. Anything that couldn’t be illustrated, wasn’t. And so some of the charm of the books is lost.
This also affects the pacing of the book. While some of the stories are just charming vignettes, some are little tales that add up to a fuller story. But it is unclear which chapter is part of a tale and which should stand alone. The chapter titles tell nothing.
The stories are illustrated with quaint line drawings that do capture the feel of the books. Pippi is charmingly quirky, with her mis-matched socks and sticking-out braids. Her friends Tommy and Annika are perfectly straight-laced, making a great foil for Pippi and her eccentricities.
The Pippi Longstocking books were first published in 1945 and were not always politically correct according to today’s standards. So in Pippi Won’t Grow Up, she travels to the South Seas where her white father has been made king by the simple natives. They are all awed by Pippi’s strength and daring and practically worship her. Also, there is a different sensibility towards nudity from Sweden to America. So in Pippi Won’t Grow Up, none of the islanders wear tops. This is okay with the men and possibly the kids, but seeing women’s breasts or anatomically correct naked babies might bother some American readers.
Pippi’s oddities make her a very distinctive character, and this does come across in the graphic novel. Despite an uneven translation into the graphic format, the story stands up to the test of time. These books are sure to appeal to kids who have read the novels more than they will to those meeting Pippi for the first time.
Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi
Pippi Fixes Everything, vol. 2
Pippi Won’t Grow Up, Vol. 3
by Astrid Lindgren
Art by Ingrid Vang Nyman
Drawn and Quarterly, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 4-10 years