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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)
Lotta Leaves Home
by Astrid Lindgren
Age Range: 6-8
When Lotta wakes up and feels like the whole world is against her she decides it is time to leave home! Lotta decides to move into the attic of her kindly neighbour Mrs Berg and successfully experiments with housekeeping. But what will happen when night time comes and Daddy is not there to kiss her goodnight?
Astrid Lindgren (of Pippi Longstocking fame) has triumphed again with Lotta and her family. Lindgren has created a very normal but wonderfully funny cast of characters that children can instantly relate to and fall in love with over the course of a whole series of Lotta novels, in the same way, that they can become enthralled by Pippi Longstocking or the Karlson series.
These stories are perfect for younger readers as the plot, language and storytelling are simple and very familiar. Lindgren really understands the sort of dramas that children experience and writes very believable, recognisable characters. The Lotta series focuses on the every day and small things that seem very important to young children, making Lotta a very sympathetic and familiar character to both male and female readers.
In this book, Lotta having a bad dream affects the whole of her day; she wakes up in a bad mood, being made to wear an itchy jumper becomes the worst thing in the world and she threatens to run off, echoing actions of children the world over. Reading Lotta brings to mind comparisons with Beverly Cleary, as Lotta and the Marten family have the same timeless, every child appeal as Henry Huggins and Ramona and Beesus Quimby.
A simple, well-told story with lovely comic touches, the only flaw in Lotta Leaves Home is that some of the things Lotta gets up to when she actually starts to enjoy her day might prove to be rather uninteresting for some boys; despite Lotta being an endearing character who behaves the same way as any child, the fact that she is probably of more interest to girls is stating the obvious. There is no rule saying that childrens’ interests are governed by gender but girls are probably more likely than boys to be interested in the passages dealing with Lotta dressing and playing with a doll and pretending to keep house.
My own readership of Lindgren is female-centric as other than Pippi Longstocking and Lotta, I am most familiar with her book Mardies’ Adventures. These are classics and feature wonderful, vivid main characters; creations that might interest girls more than boys. I am sure Lindgren comes up with characters and plots equally as strong, inventive and entertaining for both girls and boys in her many, many varied books for children, including her further stories of Lotta and her family. The Mischievous Martens, featuring Lotta’s older brother and sister is a lovely novel to read to start finding out!
Abby Phillips (2012)