It’s odd, but I’m sure the Elsa Beskow classic The Children of Hat Cottage wasn’t quite like this. I mean, I know it was, now that I have re-acquainted myself with the book. But for the life of me, I could not remember it well at all. And that’s despite it being an old favourite.
Looking at it with 21st century eyes, it is not terribly pc. And wondering to myself what it was I loved so much, I have to say it was probably the idea that you could have a nice house in a hat. Even that early I was into houses and interior decorating.
Elsa Beskow’s illustrations are as wonderful as always. There is good reason for Swedes loving her books so much. Generations of us have grown up with her picture books, and I’m sure we all have a favourite, if you were to ask. This wasn’t mine, but it ranked pretty high.
It’s about a woman who lives with her three children in a hat. One day she has to leave them on their own to go and buy some yarn to make clothes. In fairness she does take unexpectedly long over this shopping expedition. But,
those children decide to sweep the chimney, then wash their dirty clothes, and then make a fire to dry them. Yes. There isn’t much left of the lovely hat cottage after a while. But not to worry. The little man across the water comes to help them put the blaze out, builds a new house for when mother comes home, and then finishes off by proposing marriage when she returns.
And they live happily ever after.
I think it must have been all this house business I loved. Having one nice house, and then simply setting about building another when disaster strikes.
I found out about this new translation into English quite by chance, and I’m really pleased that someone – in this case Floris Books – decided to publish Elsa Beskow’s books for a new and wider audience.