In the park near our house on top of the hill, there’s a house that must belong to a teacher or school librarian, because there is always a cardboard box or two full of kids’ paperback books there, sometimes boring but sometimes the best sort of old, weird book. I had a stressful week at work and am feeling fed up so decided to dive into this gem from the free box.
It’s called The Saucepan Journey, it’s by Edith Unnerstad, first published in 1949, and is translated from Swedish. The book opens by describing the seven children in the family, and how they don’t have room in their tiny apartment for them all to sleep, having to put three chairs together and put an ironing board on top, or for the smaller ones, sleeping in a bureau drawer (as I hear I did as a baby!) There is a housing crisis (because of it being just post-war?) and no one will rent to them anyway because they have too many children and not enough money.
Their mother used to be a traveling (and maybe not very successful) young Shakespearean actress and their dad is a travelling button-seller but really, a brilliant inventor. He’s invented a 3 part whistling saucepan called “Pip”. A grumpy uncle dies and leaves them his brewery horses and two large wagons.
Their mom, a sprightly and inventive person herself, comes up with the idea that they’ll leave their cramped apartment, build bunk beds in one of the wagons, fit up the back of the wagon with a little kitchen, and travel the country selling Pip (in all three sizes).
Without even going further than that it’s clear this is going to be an amazing book. I am almost in tears at how awesome it is, and nothing has even happened yet! The Swedishness and the being 70 years old and it being relatively normal to have horses in the middle of cities adds to the fabulosity.
The parents are nice – fun – adaptable – And the children all seem to appreciate each other’s capabilities and quirks.
Why are some books so cozy, and enticing, and you can fall asleep thinking about how you’d fit up your little caravan behind your brewery horses, either with your seven (!) children or as one of them, enterprisingly selling patent saucepans? I can feel the stress just draining out of me. Even better — there are two sequels.