Alfath Saladin Saladin itibaren Reedy Creek SA 5275, Avustralya
The early Astrid Lindgren books are hysterically funny, and work equally well for both child and adult readers. The problem is that the two audiences don't find the same things amusing. My Swedish wife said that her grandmother sometimes read this book aloud to her when she was a very small girl. Every now and then, Grandma would have to stop, she was laughing too much. Elisabeth tells me she'd glare at her and say "Shut up and READ!" In this book, Lillebror (literally, "little brother"), is about seven years old, and the youngest of three siblings. 17 year old Bosse just sits in his room and practices on his damn guitar, and 15 year old Bettan has discovered boys, so no one wants to play with him. The family isn't surprised when Lillebror makes up an imaginary friend called Karlsson, a little man who lives in a house on the roof and can fly around with a handy propeller that he has attached to his back. Except, as you no doubt guessed, Karlsson actually exists. He's just a bit shy about letting other people see him. Karlsson is one of Lindgren's finest creations, and that's saying a good deal. He's an appalling egotist, shamelessly manipulates Lillebor in the most transparently obvious ways in order to get food and other treats, and immediately goes off into a sulk if his wishes are crossed. He's also a pathological liar, and doesn't even seem to understand the concept of responsibility. Somehow, it's done in such a clever, ironic way that you can't help loving him all the same, just as Lillebror does. You have to admire the author's skill. Karlsson is always getting Lillebror into various imaginative kinds of trouble. My favorite episode is the bit where Bettan has invited her new boyfriend, Pelle, back home for the evening. She's cajoled the rest of the family into going out (it's completely clear that she's planning a make-out session), but Lillebror's too small, so all she can do is offer him a reasonable bribe to stay in his room. But she's reckoned without Karlsson, who cross-examines Lillebror about the exact wording. He's just promised that Bettan won't see him for the rest of the evening, so if they both go into the living room, covered by a blanket, he's keeping to the letter of the contract, right? So they sneak out quietly and find that the lights are turned down real low, and Bettan and Pelle are on the couch with their arms around each other. As they come in, Pelle is just asking her if she likes him, and Karlsson seizes his chance to join in the conversation. "Bettan likes all the boys, so why wouldn't she like you!" he says triumphantly. And Bettan gets very satisfyingly mad as she chases the pair back to Lillebror's room, shouting that she's going to kill that horrible little kid. If you've got a little brother or a big sister, you're going to love this book.