Lilibet, Circus Child
Astrid Lindgren ~ Anna Riwkin-Brick
I was so intrigued by this book when I purchased it at a library sale because A) I can't help myself with books about the circus and B) I LOVE children's books told through photography. Written by the Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren of Pippi Longstocking fame, this a story in photographs of a wee circus girl name Lilibet. Published first in 1961, Astrid's Website gives further explanation of the creative relationship she had with the photographer.
"Anna Riwkin was born in 1908 in Russia, but grew up and made her career in Sweden. She is probably best remembered for her photographic books about children in different countries. The collaboration with Astrid Lindgren began with Noriko-San: Girl of Japan (1956) and continued with a string of photographic picture-books – My Swedish Cousins (1959), Circus Child (1960), to name but a few. What was characteristic of Anna Riwkin was her deep insight into the things that all people can relate to – things that we all have in common."
Now first, I wanna say, hers might be the swankiest writer's Website I've ever come across. The design is so simple, yet elegant, made all the more classy by the fact that each of her illustrators has been given their own autobiographical page. Whoever put the site together has done an excellent job of cataloging her work with loads of autobiographical information and photographs. Just sublime... but but back to the book at hand.
Lilibet is a circus child and her parents watch after the horses, thus, she dreams one day of becoming a circus equestrienne.
I'm Lilibet, and I have lots of horses.
"They're not your horses," says Leo. "They belong to the circus."
"That doesn't matter," I say. They're mine anyway."
Sometimes I get awfully angry with Leo. But I play with him everyday.
This clever tale follows Lilibet among the caravans as she visits "her" elephants, talks with the clowns, laments that monkeys and tigers have to be kept in cages, and of course, rides horses. The banter among Lilibet and her friends is competitive, but playful as they each seek to find a place for themselves among the circus folk.
When at last a clown gives her a magic string, telling her that if she ties it to the tail of a horse, her equine dreams will come true, she embraces the magic while at the same time understands that she has years of training ahead. Anytime we get to glimpse the unique life of a young person, I'm always tickled. That this little person's life was somehow frozen in time in a book is a marvel.
Boy, would I love to get my hands on some more of these in this series. She did a lot with Astrid (Matti Lives in Finland, Gerda Lives in Norway, Sia lives on Kilimanjaro - etc.) but also continued on in the series with other authors. Very cool. The only books in the last decade or so that have been done similarly are the Children Just Like Me books from DK. Can anyone think of anything else? I sure would love to see someone revive a series like this for today's children. What an amazing photo journey that would be.
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