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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)
Karlsson Flies Again
by Astrid Lindgren
Age Range: 6-8
Meet Karlsson –‘a most perfectly plump and handsome fellow’ who lives on the roof and flies! Along with his best friend Smidge (who lives in the flat below), the irrepressible Karlson incites all sorts of mayhem and madness and eats a great many buns. Read on to find out how Karlsson gets rid of the horrible housekeeper and how Karlsson and Smidge almost appear on TV! Most of all, enjoy the story of an unlikely but enduring friendship as Smidge and Karlson take on the world together.
In the second of the Karlsson trilogy, Astrid Lindgren brings back one of her most colourful characters for more out-of-the-ordinary adventures. Using her usual wit and humour, Lindgren manages to take boring, unpromising situations- such as Smidge being stuck at home with an unkind housekeeper, and create stories that children simply won’t want to put down. Fast-paced and clearly written, Karlsson and Smidge’s adventures are the pranks you’ve never been brave enough to try, the games you’re not allowed to play and situations that you can only dream of.
Lindgren is best known for the outlandish but wonderful Pippi Longstocking, and Karlsson as a character does not disappoint. Quick-witted, imaginative cheerful, permanently hungry and with a propeller on his back, Karlsson is like the imaginary friend that every child longs to have, and perhaps Lindgren herself wanted a friend like him, as she once stated that she wrote to amuse the child within her. In Karlsson, Lindgren has written her version of the louder, braver and cooler person that we all wanted to be at some point. In contrast, Karlsson’s friend is the unassuming and sensible Smidge. In this chalk and cheese pairing, Lindgren perfectly captured the relationships that children have with each other in a thoughtful, sympathetic (but slightly knowing way).
Apart from her ability to write characters that we all know and love and think up wonderful everyday adventures that we all wish we could have, Lindgren’s stories about Karlson and Smidge are thought-provoking as well as amusing. Smidge is, in fact, the quiet hero of the stories; proving to be a calming influence and often smoothing over Karlsson’s messes. It is therefore a mark of how well Lindgren understands her young audience that she is able to show this without preaching, teaching or moralising. Whilst she makes Karlsson the friend we all want to have, Lindgren, is not afraid to gently suggest that in reality, everyone actually needs a friend like the loyal, peacemaking Smidge. This comes through in the way Karlsson and Smidge act together but does not hang heavily over the book, in a way that children can spot a mile off and may find patronising.
Overall, Karlsson is an exciting central character and books about him always make for a laugh out loud, feel-good read with a real heart. No matter what Karlson does, he would not be able to do it without a little help from Smidge, and their unique friendship gives rise to all of their wonderful escapades.
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 The World's Best Karlsson.