Today marks the 104th birthday of Tove Jansson; Swedish-speaking Finnish author, novelist, artist, illustrator, comic strip author and creator of the Moomins.
The first Moomin book, The Moomins and the Great Flood was published during World War II in 1945. Jansson said the war depressed her a great deal and she wanted something innocent and joyful. While The Moomins and the Great Flood practically escaped all notice, her second Moomin book, Comet in Moominland was published in 1946, followed by Finn Family Moomintroll in 1948, which sold well and gathered critical acclaim, making her famous. Jansson published 6 more Moomin books, as well as a number of picture books and comics. In 1966, she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. By this time, in parts of the world, Moomins were a household name.
So...what are Moomins? Well, they are a family of troll-type creatures, generally speaking furry and snow-white in appearance; round and cuddly (if you know them well enough), with a large snout and they look vaguely like a hippopotamus. They are generally quite naive, but also philosophical. The stories take the reader on quite a variety of adventures that find them fleeing a great wave after the eruption of the local volcano; hunkering down to protect themselves from an oncoming comet, encountering a number of supernatural events and generally trying to understand and work with the world they live in.
And they are wonderful! Magical, quirky stories that 'stand the test of time', these books will take you on journeys, both in the outer and inner world. I've just finished reading Moominsummer Madness (for about the 16th time) and was once again enchanted and mesmerised. They may not be loud and raucous, like many childrens' books published today, but they have the same appeal they always had. There is much to offer in these books; journeys, thought-provoking situations, memorable and imaginative characters, beautifully depicted landscapes, drama and tension, fantastic humour; the list goes on. They are perfect for ages 7+ to read alone, but I highly recommend reading them as a family (or a class, for that matter.)
If you are a big Moomin fan already, or are suitably intrigued and want to know more about the Moomins, all their friends and relations and Tove Jansson herself, I can highly recommend The World of Moominvalley by Philip Ardagh (Moomin aficionado and fabulous kids writer, himself.) For the grown-ups in the audience, there is an excellent biography entitled Tove Jansson: Work and Love, written by Tuula Karjalainen.
When Tove Jansson passed away in 2001, she left a truly stunning legacy behind for us all.
Haven't read the Moomins, yet? I really think you should correct that situation ASAP! Get yourself down to the bookshop and select a Moomin book; Finn Family Moomintroll, Comet in Moominland, Moominsummer Madness, Tales From Moominvalley.... just pick one. You'll be hooked.
Happy Moomin-Day!!! And thank you, Tove Jansson...wherever you are.


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