Pippi Longstocking is your typical girl-meets-monkey, girl-buys-horse, girl-monkey-and-horse-share-a-house-and-ignore-local-laws sort of story.
Okay, Pippi Longstocking isn't a typical story at all, mainly because Pippi isn't a typical girl—by today's standards or by the standards of Sweden in 1945, which is when (and where) author Astrid Lindgren first published the book.
For one thing, Pippi is nine and she lives alone (with the monkey and the horse, of course). For another, she's the strongest girl in the world—strong enough to lift cows, horses, and police officers on her own. And third, even though her mom died when she was a baby and her dad is currently M.A.S. (Missing At Sea), Pippi's having the time of her life. She stays up all night, eats pastries all day long, skips school, draws on the walls and floors, and generally does whatever she wants, whenever she wants, however she wants.
That's probably why more than a few adults have expressed skepticism about the book over the years. Turns out, some people don't think Pippi is a particularly good role model. On the other hand, there are people who view Pippi as a feminist icon, a challenge to authoritarian societies and the status quo, a noble savage, or… just plain fun.
Whatever your take (and you'll likely have more than one before you're through), the fact that Pippi has shocked, angered, encouraged, and delighted people seems like a pretty good reason to check this book out. Not to mention that Astrid Lindgren won more literature prizes (for Pippi as well as many of her other works) than we can list here without completely boring you. Oh—and the largest award in children's literature, the ALMA? Yeah, that's named in Lindgren's honor (the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award).
Why Should I Care?
You're kidding, right? It's Pippi Longstocking. If you're lucky, someone read this book to you way back before you could read it yourself. If not, you're still lucky. Why? Because Pippi Longstocking is one of those rare books that has something for everyone, from your four-year-old brother to your ninety-six-year-old grandma.
Pippi is like a Pixar movie. You know the ones we're talking about: Toy Story, Cars, Up, Ratatouille, Brave… The list goes on (and on), but the thing about Pixar and Pippi is that they can be appreciated on multiple levels. From the sight gags and physical comedy that get the little kids going to the subtler jokes and social commentary that keep the adults interested, it's all there.
So if you read Pippi as a kid (or had it read to you), it's time to take another look and see what you might have missed the first time around. And if you've never encountered Pippi before, well, you're in for a treat. This book is like Nickelodeon meets Adult Swim (although the steaminess rating is closer to the Nickelodeon end of that continuum), and you, dear Shmoopster, are at an age where you can appreciate both ends of that spectrum.