It is hard to resist Pippilotta Comestibles Windowshade Curlymint Ephraimsdaughter Longstocking, with her "hair the colour of a carrot…plaited in two tight plaits that stuck straight out", and a nose "the shape of a very small potato… If this Swedish girl doesn't bamboozle you with tall tales of her time on the high seas, charm you with a gift bought with her inexhaustible pile of gold coins or turn the world as you know it upside down, then she can always pick you up and leave you hanging from a tree branch, because she's strong enough to benchpress a horse.
This year she turns 62 (although she's forever nine) and it will be 100 years since her creator, Astrid Lindgren, was born in a small town called Vimmerby in southern Sweden.
Oxford University Press – Pippi's British publisher for half a century – is bringing out a commemorative edition, with a new translation by Tiina Nunnally and illustrations by the wildly popular Lauren Child, who is responsible for the smash hits Clarice Bean and Charlie and Lola.
Child's Pippi has the same droll, slanting eyes as Lola; she looks as though she thinks a little harder than most Longstockings, who tend to be all toothy grins and freckles.
She zings about, disappearing over the page on a horse, slipping away from nasty grown-ups and dropping out of the bottom of the book.
Child found the red, blue and white print fabrics for the collages at jumble sales, and they have a bright, clean Scandinavian style.
When OUP approached Lauren, she knew she had to say yes: "I have memories of other books from my childhood, but they've faded into a certain feeling or just bits of the book. They were a shared love with my best friend and we used to talk about the books for hours."Lindgren was a married mother of two doing war work for the Swedish secret service and dabbling in writing when she conjured up Pippi.
Her daughter, Karin, was bed-bound with pneumonia and demanded that her mother tell her a story about "Pippi Långstrump".
The name was enough: Pippi sprang out fully formed – mismatched stockings, potato nose and all – and began to behave in a most extraordinary fashion.
Pippi is an orphan – her mother is "an angel" and her sea-dog father was washed overboard and is the king of a cannibal island.
Far from being tragic, this situation suits Miss Longstocking very well.
She waits for her papa in a house called Villa Villekulla "on the outskirts of a tiny little town" not unlike Vimmerby, with a monkey called Mr Nilsson and a horse that lives on the porch.
Here she befriends Tommy and Annika, a brother and sister who have wandered in from another type of children's book altogether – the type written by a grown-up who has forgotten what it's like to be a child, but has lots of notions about what children should be.
Pre-Pippi, Tommy and Annika spend all day playing croquet, keeping their clothes clean and waiting for something to happen.