1956 in children’s literature

Kjerringa som ble så lita som ei teskje (Mrs. Pepperpot) by Alf Prøysen

Mrs. Pepperpot, or teskedsgumman/teskjekjerringa as she is called in Norwegian and Swedish, is the protagonist in a series of children’s book by Alf Prøysen. Every time she gets particularly busy she tends to suddenly shrink to the size of a tea spoon (tesked/teskje). Fortunately she instead gains the ability to speak with animals and this, together with her wit, allows her to solve the various problems her miniature size causes.

My impression is that these are stories that ought to be read aloud for a fairly young child. In many ways the stories resemble classical Norwegian fairy tales and the language, in the Norwegian version written in dialect, should be well-suited for reading aloud. Unfortunately I had no child to test this on and read silently I found the stories a bit short and simple and not that interesting for an adult reader.

See also Marina Sofia’s review of Little Old Mrs. Pepperpot.

Versailles

Captain of Dragoons by Ronald Welch

The Carey novels are a series of historical fiction novels centred around British history (mostly war history) and all following a member of the fictional Carey family. In Captain of Dragoons the focus is on Charles Carey, a Captain in the Duke of Marlborough’s army.

I am always interested in a good adventure story and Captain of Dragoons indeed feature thrilling events such as duels, espionage and daring escapes, but for some reason I failed to connect with the main character, which made all of it a bit flat. All in all I found it fairly well-written for the genre and I did enjoy it, but it would probably have been more interesting if I had a bit more of an interest in UK history.

Gravel road through a summer landscape.

Rasmus på luffen (Rasmus and the Vagabond) by Astrid Lindgren

I have saved my favourite for last. Of course you never go very wrong with Astrid Lindgren and Rasmus and the Vagabond, despite being one of her lesser known books, is a lovely book. I don’t think I have read it before but I vaguely remember the TV-series.

The protagonist Rasmus is a nine-year-old orphan. After having been once again rejected by a pair of potential parents, who instead picked a curly haired girl, he decides to run away from the orphanage to find some parents for himself. As an adult I could see multiple ways this could go wrong but fortunately the first person he meets is Paradis Oskar, a friendly vagabond who takes him under his wings. Less fortunately they soon encounter a pair of robbers who tries to blame Oskar for their deeds.

As an adult reader the robber-plot was the least interesting part of the story, although I’m sure it would have been thrilling to the intended audience. I was however very much invested in Rasmus quest to find himself some parents. Rasmus is a lovely portrait of a sensitive, affection starved boy, and his friendship with Oskar is very sweet.

My family and other animals by Gerald Durrell

In addition to the books above I have recently reread Gerald Durrell’s childhood memoir My family and other animals, which is one of my favourite memoirs, and which was also first published in 1956. I have previously reviewed it here, and can now confirm that it is well-worth a reread.

For other great reads from 1956 you should visit Karen at Kaggsy’s bookish ramblings and Simon at Stuck in a book, the two hosts of the 1956Club.

16 thoughts on “1956 in children’s literature

    1. I’m so happy I finally managed to join one of you clubs! Focusing on children’s fiction for a week has also been great, and necessary as I’ve lately been too tired in the evenings for anything other than children’s fiction and bad thrillers.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Interesting choices. I also read “My Family and Other Animals” by Gerald Durrell and reviewed it on my blog. I liked it so much that I went on to read the other books in the trilogy. I haven’t read any of Astrid Lindgren. I think I watched a movie version of “Pippi Longstocking” as a child and have had the “Pippi Longstocking” books on my “to be read” list for a while. I think I commented before that I was not that familiar with Scandinavian literature. Interestingly, very recently, I discovered a YouTube channel, Steven Red Fox Garnett, which features full audiobooks read by the YouTuber. I started watching one where he takes the viewer on a virtual walking tour in Sweden and also reads Tove Jansson’s, “A Dangerous Journey: A Tale of Moomin Valley.” I will probably finish watching today.

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    1. I believe I have read your my Family and Other Animals review, it is certainly a very good book, so much warmth and humour.

      Pippi Longstocking is of course Lindgren’s most famous work and well worth a read, however my Lindgren favourites are her later works, Ronia the Robber’s daughter and Brothers Lionheart. Both have a bit of sombre tone while still being very much children’s fiction.

      How are you enjoying Tove Jansson? She is notherone of my favourites.

      Like

  2. Rasmus and the Vagabond reminds me of reading Huckleberry Finn, I found his story really interesting and got a bit fed up with the adventures he kept having! I must add Rasmus to my list of children’s classics to read.

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  3. We both read children’s books – but came up with different choices! I remember reading Mrs. Pepperpot to my daughters, but I think I’m too old to have read them a a child – I didn’t realise Alf Proysen was Norwegian.

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    1. For me Mrs. Pepperpot was always primarily a TV character as she was the star of a very popular Swedish TV-series. I think this was the first time I read the original.

      I had planned to also reread The Last Battle, like you did, but in the end I decided that three books were enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yup, you can never go wrong with Astrid Lindgren! 😀 Though I must admit I read Rasmus only once and a very long time ago. I always preferred Ronja and Emil, and the Bullerbyn children, and Brothers Lionheart, and even Lotta the spoiled child 😀

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