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Astrid Lindgren

November 14 marks the birthday of the woman who wrote about the adventures of a girl named Pippi Lĺngstrump, or, as we know her in English, Pippi Longstocking.  Swedish author Astrid Lindgren was born Astrid Ericsson on a farm near Vimmerby, Sweden, on November 14, 1907.  She was the second of four children of Samuel August, a tenant farmer, and Hanna Jonsson Ericsson.  As a child, she loved to read, especially books that had girls as the heroine, such as Anne of Green Gables and the Pollyanna stories.

From 1924 to 1926, Lindgren worked as a reporter for the local newspaper, Wimmerby Tidning.  She also worked off and on with the Salvation Army, where she met with friends and sang hymns.  But her youth ended abruptly at the age of 18 when she became pregnant.  Her family was shocked.  She left home and moved to Stockholm, where she became an office worker and gave birth to her son, Lars, who was given up to a foster home.  Eventually, Lindgren's parents took him to live with them in Vimmerby.

The author married her office manager, Sture Lindgren, in 1931.  In 1940, she worked at the Swedish intelligence service, censoring letters.  In 1941, she moved to Dalagatan 26, Stockholm, where she was to live for years.  From 1946 to 1970, she was a children's book editor at Rabén & Sjogren.  

In 1944, Lindgren sprained her ankle, and while she was stuck in bed--and bored to death--she wrote down the Pippi Longstocking stories she'd been telling her children for years.  She wanted to give a copy to her daughter Karin for her tenth birthday. Lindgren was so pleased with the way the stories looked on paper that she sent it a copy to her publisher.  In 1945, Pippi Longstocking was was born.

Pippi, a nine-year-old girl with no parents, lived in a red house at the edge of a Swedish village with her horse and her pet monkey, Mr. Nilsson.  She had red pigtails, and she wore one black stocking and one brown, with black shoes twice as long as her feet. She ate whole chocolate cakes and slept with her feet on her pillow.  She was also the strongest girl in the world.

The sequels to Pippi Longstocking include Pippi Goes on Board (1946) and Pippi in the South Seas (1948).  Lindgren's Pippi books are her most popular, but she wrote more than 115 others, including detective stories, adventure stories, fantasy novels, and realistic fiction.  Her books have sold 80 million copies and have been translated into Arabic, Armenian, Vietnamese, and even Zulu.

Lindgren received several awards for her work, including the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for Pippi Longstocking in 1973; the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1958; and the International Book Award from UNESCO in 1993.  Her publisher, Viking Press, received the Mildred Batchelder Award for her book, Ronia, the Robber's Daughter, in 1984.  She received other recognition, including honorary doctorates from several universities. 

Her favorite character, Pippi Longstocking, has been the star of movies as well. Columbia Pictures made the movie, New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, in 1988.

When someone asked Lindgren on the eve of her 94th birthday what she wanted for a present, she replied simply, "Peace on earth and nice clothes."

Astrid Lindgren died in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2001.

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