Before I begin, a quick note on how I choose our read-aloud literature. I alternate classics with contemporary favorites. For the classics, Ambelside Online provides thoughtful suggestions. I’ve also been known to scroll through My Father’s World’s and Sonlight’s lists. My college roommate and bestie Ariel teaches early elementary in public school, so I usually take my cues for contemporary books from what she’s reading to her students. In this case, I didn’t follow any of those routes–the book was on sale at our library for a quarter. ‘Nuff said.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Synopsis: Pippi is the wildly creative, freakishly strong daughter of a pirate. When her father falls overboard, Pippi takes up residence in the family home Villa Villekulla. Together with her two young neighbors, she enjoys many escapades including fighting an angry bull and joining a circus. The book contains eleven chapters with 116 pages.
Review: I thought the book’s kooky stories would delight Peck, and I was correct. Only one chapter failed to hold his attention. (To be fair, it was about an adult coffee party and a little over his head.) Pippi loves to tell tall tales about her adventures in other countries. For example, she contends that people in Guatemala sleep with their head under the covers and their feet on the pillow. Peck, being a literal child, at first assumed all of her wild narrations were fact, which led to some good conversations. One Sunday, Peck came home talking about a girl in his class that had seen a real mummy. “She watched it sit up, Mom! She saw one, for real!!!” Using Pippi as an example, I was able to explain that his friend was just spinning a yarn, and that mummies wouldn’t be walking the earth any time soon. I think I might have had a harder time convincing Peck of this truth, if we hadn’t been reading the book. That’s one thing I love about literature–it gives context to situations my child may not experience first hand.
Caution: Pippi encounters burglars in chapter eight. Because of her precociousness and strength, she overpowers them herself. In another chapter, she leads police officers on a merry wild-goose chase. Not to mention she lives alone without any parental guidance. I made sure to discuss with Peck that while those ideas are fun in a story, they don’t work in real life.
1. Mr. Nilsson
Materials: copy of the novel, drawing or coloring sheet of a monkey, crayons, construction paper (blue, yellow, and white), scissors, glue, ribbon (optional).
Procedure: 1) Read description of Mr. Nilsson in chapter one. 2) Color him brown. 3) Cut out pants, jacket, and shirt from construction paper in colors matching description. 4) Glue clothes on drawing. 5) Optional: The picture of Mr. Nilsson on the cover of our book adds a tie to the outfit. Peck wanted to match the picture. So we glued a small length of ribbon to the jacket.
Peck was so taken with his Mr. Nilsson that he wanted to do the same thing with Pippi, which is how the next activity was born.
Procedure: 1) Read description of Pippi in chapter one. 2) Color Pippi according to description (exclude hair and patches on dress). 3) Cut lengths of yarn. 4) Glue yarn on hair portion of picture. 5) Cut squares out of red paper. 6) Glue squares as patches to dress.
Instead of Peck cutting squares manually, I used my square cutter. Peck loves any opportunity to use my scrapbooking supplies. Also, Hubby had modified a cardboard box, making it a fort for Peck. Peck dubbed it Villa Villekulla and placed both Mr. Nilsson and Pippi inside.
3. Sweden: The novel’s setting is Sweden. Peck and I located the country on a globe and examined the distance from the US. We also downloaded and colored Sweden’s flag.
Pippi makes these Swedish cookies in chapter two, and they are also referenced in other chapters. I have a fantastic family recipe for pepparkakor, but I’m lazy, and they’re time-consuming to bake. So I settled on an alternative. The titular spices in the recipe are cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. I perused the imported cookie section of my local grocery store and found a substitute from Sweden made with the same spices. I live in a small town, and, if my local store had them, yours should have something similar. Before we tasted the cookies, I had Peck explore those spices from our supply with most of his senses. We looked, touched, smelled, and tasted the strong powders. Then we ate the delicious cookies, trying to discern the various flavors.
5. Secret Tree
In chapter five, Pippi and the children find a hollow tree big enough from them all to climb inside.
Materials: white paper, crayons or markers, finger paints in green and red, cute little fingers
Procedure: 1) Draw a tree with a trunk wide enough for three figures to be drawn inside. 2) Draw Pippi, Tommy, and Annika hidden inside the tree. 3) Have your student dip their thumbs in the green paint. 4) Have your student press their paint-covered thumb to the tree branches creating leaves. 5) Repeat the process with their pinkies and the red paint to create fruit.
Peck is not overly interested in arts and crafts. He does the minimum work required to complete the project. A more artsy child would really enjoy this process.
6. Circus: In chapter seven, Pippi and the children go to the circus. Peck has never been to a circus and one wasn’t in town when I needed it, so we watched these two videos. I chose them because they are acts mentioned in the chapter.
7. Emergency! As I’ve already mentioned, Pippi has many run-ins with emergency situations. I used the opportunity to review emergency procedures for the household and how to call 911. (Literally, how. Does your child know the process to dial 911 from your cell?) After discussing the appropriate reasons to call 911, we role played like this.
Me: 911. What’s your emergency?
Peck: My mommy fell and can’t get up.
Me: What’s your name?
Peck: Peck (It’s good to have your child practice their saying their full name slowly and clearly).
Me: What’s your address?
Peck: 123 Awesome St in Smallville (In this age of cell phones, it’s more important than ever for your kiddo to know their address).
Me: Help is on the way. Stay on the line and tell me when you hear the sirens.
This activity sparked Peck’s imagination. We role played every increasingly wild scenario that came to his mind such as aliens attacking ( I told him to stay on the line. The Avengers were coming.). I didn’t mind. The more practice, the more he’ll be prepared in a true emergency.
8. Schottische: In chapter eight, Pippi partners with a burglar in this traditional folk dance. Peck and I watched this video, learning the simple steps. Much fun!
Peck loves to act out scenes from the books we read. It’s fun for him and a creative way to assess his retention. Chapter ten, in which Pippi saves two children from a fire, is perfect for this activity. We built a set with blocks following the descriptions of the scene in the chapter and performed the action with Lego minifigs.
The book concludes with a birthday party. So we concluded our unit with a movie party. Peck dictated an invitation and decorated it with stickers. Then he delivered it to Dad. That night, we had popcorn and watched The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking. I downloaded the movie from Amazon for $2.99. If you have an older child, discuss the similarities and differences between the book and movie.