Sunday, June 18, 2017

Classic Rereads: The Saucepan Journey by Edith Unnerstad, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

I have searched for many years for the Peep-Larssons Go Sailing by Edith Unnerstad. Recommended by Noel Perrin as one of those rare, but exquisite books, I've never quite managed to get my hands on a copy. But I finally decided to read another in the series, The Saucepan Journey, and located a copy via inter-library loan. It turned out to be the first in the series!

The Larssons are poor. They have so many children there's scarcely room to turn around in their tiny apartment, let alone sleep. When their father's rich half-brother dies and leaves them only two draft horses and drays, Mrs. Larsson comes up with a novel idea - Mr. Larsson, who is an inventor when he's not a traveling salesman, will turn the wagons into caravans and they will spend the summer touring the countryside. Where does the Peep come in? Well, Mr. Larsson has designed a marvelous saucepan, and they will finance their journey by selling it along the way.

It's a wonderful summer. They meet a down-on-his-luck hot dog man, an eccentric old woman, a man who might be a murderer. They discover thieves, wonderful lakes, and fascinating Swedish towns.

Who will read this? Families who enjoy classic family stories such as Taylor's All of a Kind Family, Sidney's Five little Peppers, Eleanor Estes, and Streatfeild's Magic Summer will love this. It won't appeal to kids who are used to the more fast-paced adventures of contemporary children's literature and media, but you might be surprised how many kids are willing to relax and try something different. It's a perfect family summer read, and may be especially appreciated by families who struggle economically or who want their children to be familiar with a wide range of people in different walks of life.

Bring it back? Absolutely. Even if you're not fascinated by Scandinavian children's literature, as am I, this is a wonderfully nostalgic summer read. While it lacks racial diversity, not surprising for the time period and location, it portrays a family that is poor in economic resources but rich in imagination, ingenuity, and love. The original illustrations are colorful and appealing and it's a strong family story that will appeal to readers who like this type of lazy summer reads.

Availability? It's fairly common in smaller libraries - worldcat lists multiple holdings. Used copies also proliferate online for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, it was last reprinted in the 60s so you're unlikely to find a shiny new copy that will stand out on the shelf.


Lori said...

I've been looking for The Saucepan Journey for years, remembering it very fondly from my childhood. But it is out-of-print and no library seems to carry it. There was also a book called "Little O," about the youngest sister (her real name was Ophelia, as all the sisters were named after Shakespearean characters), and I think there was one about the wild little brother. But I didn't know about "The Peep-Larssons Go Sailing"! Gee I wish someone would re-print this delightful series. Wherever did you find "The Saucepan Journey"?

Jennifer said...

Hi Lori, I wish I could help you...but I've never been able to find a copy myself! I borrowed Saucepan Journey from the library - I'm not sure since it was so long ago, but I think it was in the University of Illinois' children's collection. If you just want to read them, why not try asking your local library to search for them via inter-library loan?

Ms. Yingling said...

This reminds me a bit of Clymer's Trolley Car Family. I was always a sucker for families living in interesting places. Oh! Enright! The Saturdays! Adored that one, but I'm sure you have a huge list of classics to read already.

Jennifer said...

I love the Melendy family! I recommend that one all the time - I think it *might* still be in print.