Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A Blooming Moomin Read ~ The Moomins and The Great Flood by Tove Jansson

I thought it was time that I told you about a beautiful series of books that I have been reading recently with my 8 year old daughter.  Written and illustrated by Swedish author Tove Jansson, the books were first published in 1945 at the end of the Second World War.  It is therefore not difficult to notice the war parallels in the story-lines, especially in the first book, 'The Moomins and The Great Flood', where Moomintroll, the young moomin protagonist, and his mother, Moominmamma, wander through the dark forest, trying to find Moominpapa.  This often unsettling and uncertain plot-line must have been the childhood narrative of so many children's lives in Europe around the time of the war: where was daddy?  Would he be coming home safely and soon.  ' "Tell us something about Moominpapa", asked Moonintroll', as it had been so long since he'd seen his papa, that he couldn't quite remember him.

As adult readers, we can appreciate the poignancy of this line, and recognise what a clever writer Jansson really was.  She uses children's literature to work through all the emotions experienced by a generation of children living in wartime.  It is all in the imagery:  the dark forest, the strange creatures that you cannot quite trust, the strangers watching from the shadows, and the tiny, helpless folk, just trying to keep safe.

But for my young children, it was just a thrilling, adventure story.  They were simply enthralled, if not flabbergasted, to think that a fully-grown, respectable papa could suddenly go missing like that.

The landscape of the book is dark and mysterious, inhabited by large snake-worms, shadowy hattifatteners, and countless other nameless little creatures, all just eerie enough to appeal to a child's imagination, but not enough to completely terrify.
The illustrations are wonderfully detailed, especially in the hardback edition, published by 'Sort Of' Books, making this particular publication a collector's item for book and art lovers alike.

And what ever happened to Moominpapa?  Do Moointroll and Moominmama ever meet him again?  Well, you will just have to read it to find out.


picky said...

I've only recently heard about this series, but I wasn't sure what it was. This is a lovely review, and though I don't have kids, I'd like to get the chance to read these.

My Book Affair said...

Picky - You might like to look at this video on you Tube - such a wonderful BBC documentary. It led me to the books. Very clever books - not just for children either! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSZKzLHI5wg