Gather the children, open these pages and meet little Rasmus.
At age nine, Rasmus wants so badly to be free of the orphanage.
The efficient Miss Hawk is a poor substitute for a mother's love, and prospective parents always adopt girls with curly hair.
What is a straight-haired boy to do?
Run away, of course, to find "somebody who wants me."
So Rasmus does, all alone on a summer night, with one coin and a zwieback in his pocket.
Friends often appear in unlikely places, wearing unexpected faces. Rasmus never would have trusted a tramp... but Oscar promises that he doesn't eat children, calls himself God's Best Friend, and carries big ham sandwiches on rye bread. And he's perfectly at home on the open road.
Beside him, Rasmus can journey safely to a new family.
What a delightful book.
There is adventure aplenty that would have enthralled me as a kid and still had the grown-up me turning pages fast.
See, they don't simply wander around the countryside, marching along lanes, napping in sandhollows, visiting farms, and singing for their suppers.
No, Rasmus and Paradise Oscar run afoul of some robbers- a situation calling for bravery and ingenuity in the face of danger.
Warm-heartedness is celebrated in every chapter as our two tramps grow quite attached to each other.
Rasmus continues to imagine his ideal father as handsome, rich, and good, but Oscar is so kind and honest- why couldn't he have been a wealthy grocer? Then Rasmus could stay with him forever.
Honestly, I did not see the ending coming. I didn't. There's a plot twist in the last two chapters and at first I thought "Well, that's a bittersweet but satisfactory ending." And then I read a bit more and said "No, that's a wonderful ending."
You'll see what I mean. :-)
And the writing- oh, the writing. This is back in the days when children's books were loaded with subtle wit and humor.
Rasmus: "Didn't anyone ever offer you a job?"
Oscar: "Yes, it has happened. But on the whole people are usually nice to me."
And there's doses of gentle truth, too.
At one point Rasmus asks "Could I get to be one of those God's best friends anyway?"
"Yes," Oscar reassures him, "They're not that fussy up there."
This book is going on my shelf next to the Pippi Longstocking series. It should be a classic- right there with Eleanor Estes' Moffat books.
Thank you to Plough Publishing House for my review copy, provided through HandleBar Media.