Big love for a European success story today, as Astrid Lindgren’s tale of a naughty little Swede is reimagined by Italian / French artist Beatrice Alemagna (with reference to the English translation by Gerry Bothmer).
Lotta is Astrid’s lesser known child anarchist. Several years Pippi Longstocking’s junior, and the youngest of three siblings, Lotta is still front and centre of every situation, stubborn, angry, inquisitive and very aware of her frustrating position in the family.
English language readers might also see parallels with Dorothy Edwards’ My Naughty Little Sister (their first books were published a year apart). The connection was made greater still by the similarities between the original illustrations by Ilon Wikland and Shirley Hughes’ classic drawings for My Naughty Little Sister.
For these reasons the Lotta stories don’t feel quite as unique as Pippi Longstocking, a character with an otherworldly quality. Lotta is very much drawn from life and vibrantly so. The addition of artist Beatrice Alemagna, who recently produced her own story about a strong willed pre-schooler, adds that something extra and helps lift the source material into the realms of the fantastic.
Flicking through the book again without referring to the translation it strikes me that you don’t even need to understand the text to find out everything you need to know about this character and her world. Alemagna’s characters really fizz with life.
She also capture the intense lows when things don’t quite go Lotta’s way.
There are delicious scenes of high naughtiness.
And gorgeous moments of reflection in the lush rural landscape.
If Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola is like a flat pack Ikea version of Scandinavian living, this is something altogether more authentic; added to Lindgren’s distinctly Swedish voice, Alemagna brings Italian artistry and French style to create a pan-European masterpiece.
I had hoped this wonderful book might one day appear in a new English translation, but who knows whether that sort of thing will happen much in the years to come. I don’t want to dwell on all that though, but rather heap huge praise this truly wonderful coming together of two great european talents.