Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rasmus and the Vagabond by Astrid Lindgren

Rasmus and the Vagabond cover

Nine year old Rasmus has been raised in an orphanage. With no memories of his birth parents, Rasmus longs for a family to adopt him. But week after week, he watches families come and pick out girls with curly hair. So that's two strikes against him--being a boy and having straight hair.  After a typical day of getting into scrapes, he decides to run away before the headmistress can mete out her threatened punishment the next morning.

He cautiously sneaks out and makes his way as far as his tired feet will take him that first night. He ends up bedding down in a barn and dozes off the minute his head hits the hay.  Morning calls and he discovers he's not alone. A gentleman of the road seems to have chosen the same lodging.  He introduces himself as Paradise Oscar and kindly offers Rasmus part of his breakfast.  As he gets ready to head on his way, Rasmus asks if he can accompany him.  When Oscar says he can't have a companion that steals, Rasmus admits he did help himself to a piece of zwieback from the orphanage kitchen. Oscar laughs and says that doesn't really count; he's willing to try things out and see "how we get along together."

So begins the adventure of a lifetime for Rasmus. Tramping roads and sleeping under the stars or in barns, singing or working for their meals all create a feast of new experiences in his otherwise deprived childhood. What child wouldn't want to see the world with a kind and knowledgeable companion watching out for you?  It was almost as good as having a family of his own.  That was the one thing he so desperately wanted to find.

All seems to be going well until they stumble upon a robbery and end up becoming the prime suspects!  They need to clear their name and find the true culprits while dodging the police who are now on the lookout for a runaway orphan. Just when Rasmus thinks he'll never find a home, he meets a farmer and his wife (they are even rich!) who aren't opposed to a child with straight hair. But can Rasmus say good-bye to Oscar and the tramping life forever?  You'll have to read the book to find out.  Take my word for it, this book will put a smile on your face and maybe even a new Paradise Oscar song in your heart!

I love the way Astrid Lindgren captures the anxieties and adventures of childhood. Offering a glimpse into a simpler and less harried time, you will be refreshed and satisfied by the story's conclusion.  She packs in laughter, fear, and suspense in an age-appropriate and wholesome package. This work was written in 1956 and was recently republished by Plough Publishing House.  I am so glad this classic is back in print!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Rasmus and the Vagabond from Handlebar in exchange for an honest review.

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