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We love: Rasmus and the Tramp

Rasmus and the TrampRasmus and the TrampRasmus and the Tramp

Rasmus was sitting in his regular notch in the linden tree, thinking about things that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. Potatoes were at the top of the list. Cooked, with gravy on them for Sunday dinner they were all right, but when they kept on sprouting in the field and had to be dug up — then they shouldn’t be tolerated.

Thanks to our sweet neighbour, a retired teacher who had read this one to her classes many times over, we have just finished Rasmus and the Tramp (Rasmus and the Vagabond in the US) by Astrid Lindgren, famous for her Pippi Longstocking stories. It was a very special read for this family, and for the five year-old Moose in particular, because it’s the first time that he’s ever encountered his name in print. And a huge thrill for the one who gave him such an unusual name (for the UK at least — he’d be commonplace in Estonia or Scandinavia), to have such a feisty, resourceful and kind namesake to read to him about.

Rasmus is a nine year-old boy stuck in Vaesterhaga Orphanage because people who want children always choose girls with curls. When he runs away from the orphanage he meets Oscar the tramp and discovers the joy of life on the road. Together Rasmus and Oscar foil a robbery, escape the Sheriff, and find Rasmus the parents that he has always dreamed of: a kind, pretty mother and a rich father. But can Rasmus bear to be parted from his beloved Oscar?

It’s a lively, sweet story, perfect for a read-aloud. In our house it captivated the eight-year-old and the five-year-old, with the two-year-old mooching around with his Duplo and coming over to view the illustrations that appear once or twice a chapter. When my neighbour first mentioned it to me, eBay copies were fetching around £60. But now — hallelujah! — I see that it’s back in print. I’m ordering the Moose a copy of his very own straight away and returning this precious hardback to its owner.


I’ve written before of the joys of reading a book in which your child shares a name with one of the characters. Does anyone else’s family have a favourite based on a shared name?

And the Moose’s unusual name? He’s named for a character in Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower. Anyone else’s children named for characters in books?


  1. Um, me, obviously!! Our Harriet is for Harriet the Spy (I bet I told you that already…) and we enjoy encountering literary Harriets all the time—Hatty in Tom’s Midnight Garden was a recent favourite.

    • I probably did know that, but (confession) I’ve never read Harriet the Spy. We’d probably better fix that pretty quickly if she’s worth naming a firstborn over. And yes, Hatty in Tom’s Midnight Garden is wonderful! But what about Iris? I had an Iris Murdoch phase a few years ago…

      • We have so many books with Harriets within, but I don’t know of any Irises. Maybe that’s why Iris tends to be so angry? The injustice of it all?

  2. My middle child was named for an intrepid Irish monk who crossed the Atlantic by currach — his story, the Navigatio, is wondrous. And I doubt my son will read it because it’s not math…

    • Funny you should say that, Theresa. I was also struggling to imagine my son ever growing up to be the kind of person who’d read The Blue Flower. But perhaps five is a little too early to judge such things 🙂

      • That particular son is now 32, Sarah…! Though his birth announcement — it features poems written for him by his dad and me — has a small image from the Dolmen edition of the Navigatio, a woodcut of Brendan in his currach. (The friends who printed the broadsheet had a polymer plate made from the original…) And your son has a lovely name, whether he reads The Blue Flower or not!

  3. It’s not very literary but my J is named after Josephine Bettany of the Chalet School. And Elinor M Brent-Dyer, in turn, named her heroine after Louisa M Alcott’s Jo March. J recently pulled out a Chalet School book at random from the bookshelf and asked for it as her bedtime story. She listened solemnly and with, I suspect, minimal comprehension, for four or five nights before returning to Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella……

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