It was a bit exciting in our home when Gecko Press sent us “Soda Pop”, a ‘chapter book’ to review! We love reviewing picture books, but my eldest two sons have moved on to independently reading chapter books now. They still like picture books, age doesn’t discriminate when it comes to children’s literature, especially when it’s read aloud. I’ve read a picture book to 50 adults before and had them captivated. As much as the big boys will still listen to many of the picture books and enjoy them, but the longer stories are exciting them more at the moment and Soda Pop certainly did not disappoint.
Soda Pop is a classic Swedish children’s novel and an absurd tale in a world where anything can happen. I immediately liked the thought of my children getting to know a classic tale from a different country, not because they would learn anything about Sweden,especially when this story as the setting is very much imaginary, after all, I am sure that most father’s in Sweden do not wear bright orange clothes and tea cosies on their head unlike Soda Pop. A classic from another country simply gives access to another time honoured favourite that might be slightly different in flavour and delivery.
Jonty read the book enthusiastically. It was one of those books when your child begs you to stay up late to keep reading. I for one am a complete sucker and happily gave a bedtime extensions in the interest of promoting literacy, especially when the novel has your child giggling with glee as he flicks the pages. Watching him get such enjoyment from a book warmed the cockles of my heart. It also made him late for school the next morning, which I perhaps was not so happy about. I must note though, when my children are disobedient because they are reading it’s easier for me to extend them grace compared to other misdemeanours. Advantages of having a mother who is a book worm I guess!
I think one of the reasons this story was so appealing was thanks to the pure absurdity of the storyline and characters. The main characters are Soda Pop, a preposterous father raising his son Mazarin on sweet buns and love. There is also the eccentric Greandfayher Dartanyong who emerged every morning from his woodshed with a new identity. So in such a bizarre context, why wouldn’t a Great-grandfather move into a tree, eat birdseed and think he is a cuckoo? And why would such a motley crew not trap a group of tigers in a barn but not be surprised when the tigers escape and hang out at the bottom of a pool in a car? And when all these antics are accompanied by fanciful illustrations, a child’s imagination is truly ignited.
I asked him what I should say about this book in a review. He replied, “You can tell everyone that this book is CRAZY!” He hastily added, “The good type of crazy, that is!”
I must say Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking, agreed with Jonty’s claim that the story was crazy. Her review says, “There’s a sublime sort of craziness to it that catches me unaware every time. Neither Soda Pop nor Mazarin nor Dartanying speaks a single word of sense, but they will be my friends for life.”
I would highly recommend this book if your child delights in off beat humour and nonsense where usual rules and prejudices don’t exist. This story has withstood the test of time and is so loved in Sweden that it has be turned into a stop-motion animation series, a cartoon, a play, an opera and a comic book. I think a whole new group of children are going to fall in love with the characters in this first English edition.