Lotta on Troublemaker Street by Astrid Lindgren

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Lindgren, Astrid.  1963, revised 1984.  LOTTA ON TROUBLEMAKER STREETNew York:  Aladdin Paperbacks.  ISBN: 0-689-84673-8.

Swedish author Astrid Lindgren is famous for her Pippi Longstocking books, but she also created another series of books about the Nyman children who are residents on the appropriately named Troublemaker Street.  Lotta on Troublemaker Street is the story of the youngest Nyman, 5-year-old Lotta.  She wakes up believing that a dream in which her older brother and sister are being mean to her stuffed pig, Bamsie, is real.  Things go downhill from there when Lotta manages to destroy the itchy sweater that her mother wants her to wear.  Fearing that she is in trouble, Lotta persuades her neighbor, Mrs. Berg, to allow her to "set up housekeeping" in the attic of her shed.  Lotta spends the afternoon setting up her house and entertaining visitors, but when darkness comes, she starts to doubt her decision, so her father is able to persuade her to return home because her "mother is very sad."

Many children will see themselves in Lotta Nyman.  They dream of having their own home so that they can do as they please without parental interference or annoying siblings.  Lotta gets to live out this dream, albeit briefly, and her experiences might convince readers that there are also drawbacks to having your own home, most notably loneliness and the darkness that "looked very black" and "crept closer and closer to Lotta and filled the room until there was only one small spot of light over where the window was."  Lotta does show a great deal of maturity by apologizing to her mother for ruining her sweater when she returns home and to make it easier on her, her mother says, "I'm sorry" with her before tucking her into bed.  Children in Lotta's age group will find her parents' unconditional love very reassuring.     

Since it was written over forty years ago, Lotta on Troublemaker Street has a distinctively old-fashioned feel to it.  The Nymans are a classic nuclear family:  Father works in an office, Mother is a homemaker, the two older children are in school, and 5-year old Lotta is not in kindergarten or preschool, but is home with her mother all day.  The neighborhood they live in, where Mrs. Berg  is also home all day and is willing to let her little neighbor take up residence in the attic of her storage shed and use the items that are stored there is very rare in the U.S. of the new millennium and is probably not as common in Sweden as it was in the 1960s. 

There are few distinctively Swedish touches n this book, perhaps because Lindgren's books have a worldwide market.  The children's names, Lotta, Jonas, and Maria Nyman, are Swedish.  Lotta also refers to her new home as her "househole."  The food that Lotta gets from Mrs. Berg, an orangeade and a cold potato pancake with jam, and the family's dinner of hamburgers and stewed apricots are also Swedish, or at more  European than American.    

Astrid Lindgren once said, "I don't consciously try to influence the children who read my books.  All I dare hope for is that they may contribute a little bit towards a humane and democratic view of the world in the children who read them."  Books like Lotta on Troublemaker Street definitely fulfills Lindgren's hope.

Works cited:
Astrid Lindgren Biography from Books and Writers website.  http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/alindgr.htm.  Accessed February 27, 2006.

By Monica Wood