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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
World's Best Karlsson (The)
by Astrid Lindgren
Age Range: 6-8
Smidge and the irrepressible Karlsson who lives on the roof are back in another top speed, high energy adventure. Karlsson is the world’s best at scaring burglars, spying on people who insist on closing doors and dealing with unwanted, curmudgeonly relatives and his plans often end in highly amusing catastrophes. When someone spots Karlsson out flying and informs the papers, his happy existence, his privacy, and his friendship with Smidge come under threat. Can Karlsson and Smidge dodge priers and those who seek to exploit him? Will Karlsson be the world’s best at outwitting the press?
In the third instalment in the Karlsson series, our perfectly plump hero is back with a vengeance and brings some of the most memorable characters from the first two books with him. We of course encounter Smidge and Bumble and the Stevenson family, but we also see the return of everyone’s favourite housekeeper, Miss (Creepy) Crawley and the rather hapless burglars Rollo and Spike. Everyone soon gets up to their usual tricks (especially Karlsson) and Lindgren keeps the story interesting with the added spice of Karlsson having to be hidden from the press. This adds a little suspense to the story and allows Lindgren to add an interesting new angle to the books whilst still making us laugh on nearly every page.
The Karlsson stories have friendship as their central theme and Lindgren makes a study of the ways in which people are friends with each other in the relationship between Karlsson and Smidge. Whilst Lindgren never preaches, the Karlsson books are quite thought-provoking and gently encourage children to think about their own friendships as well as making them laugh. In The World’s Best Karlsson, the added pressure of trying to keep Karlsson hidden means that the relationship between Karlsson and Smidge starts to change. Karlsson’s disregard for Smidge and their friendship starts to become more apparent and Smidge also answers back more often. Lindgren looks at what happens when friendships fray as personalities change and children pick up on the differences between themselves and their friends. Luckily, Karlsson and Smidge always work through their disagreements and seem to become stronger. Friendships make, break and change is targeted at the middle to upper primary age range, so Karlsson and Smidge are not only amusing characters but are also figures that children can easily relate to through Lindgren’s touchingly written narration.
Above all, no matter what quibble Karlsson has with Smidge or Smidge with Karlson, these stories are exuberant and very funny. As a character, Karlsson enjoys life and encourages everyone around him to join in. Not only will this put a smile on the faces of readers, but with Lindgren’s clear, fast-paced, action-packed narration should see them engrossed for hours. As Karlsson says, ‘It’s got to go bang, and I’ve got to have fun’. This book goes with a bang and every page sees Karlsson and Smidge racing from one adventure to the next. Abby Phillips (2012) This new edition from OUP has charming black and white illustrations by Mini Grey (earlier versions were illustrated by Tony Ross). Other Karlsson titles on the website are: Karlsson On the Roof and Karlsson Flies Again.