Writer Anne Lamott says that the children’s classic made her feel like there was room in the world for imaginative, adventurous girls who just might wear mismatched knee socks. Reading about Pippi's adventures pulled Lamott into another world — one that gave her a convenient escape from homework and chores.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
A book that changed my life forever was Pippi Longstocking.
I was an early reader and found literal salvation in chapter books. The first one I remember was "Pippi Longstocking," about this little Swedish girl with braids that stuck straight out, one black sock and one brown sock and a horse that lived with her and a monkey whose name I think was Mr. Nielsson. And her father was the king of a cannibal Island. He had floated off somewhere. I don't remember if we know what happened to her mother, but she lived alone next to slightly priggish Swedish [kids] whose names I think are Tommy and Annika and she radicalizes them. She gets them to do things that are way scarier than I would ever do. She teaches them to go a little farther beyond their guard than they've ever gone before. She makes them laugh. Sometimes she just picks up her horse and carries him out to the front porch for a little fresh air. And when I read that book, I thought, there's a place in this world for me, for odd, strange, strong me.
And I thank the author every few days.
We had this one funky little window seat or what we called a window seat, which was kind of a very, very small space jammed up against a window. And that was my safety spot.
That was if I was there and if you were reading, you could get away with it.
You know, if you're sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out all of life because you've just been hanging out with Catholics or some other strange family, a grownup would come along and say, "Don't you have something to do? Don't you have homework?" Or, "Is your room clean?" But if you had a book in your hand, they'd come by and smile at you.
And I remember the cover. I remember those braids and those freckles and that goofy skirt and that one long black knee sock and one long brown knee sock.
She was always making pancakes and flipping them. And they got stuck on the ceiling all the time. She was like Ruth Gordon in "Harold and Maude." And "Harold and Maude" was a movie that changed my life forever. Forever. I had this kinky, short, nappy, whitish blond hair so I couldn't do the braids. Other girls would do the braids for Halloween.
They put wire in their braids. So of course, I was completely bitter and jealous about that.
But, you know, we didn't have enough money ever. And so sometimes my socks would kind of not match. They'd be the same color, but they wouldn't be from the same pair. One does what one can.