Finn Family Moomintroll
by Tove Jansson
This book is the second in a series that earned its author the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1966 (this is given every two years in honor of career contribution to childrens literature). Originally written in Swedish by a Finnish author and illustrator, the version I read was translated by Elizabeth Portch. Its sweetness, charm, and smooth readability put it in the same league as Winnie the Pooh and Pippi Longstocking; it also has a touch of melancholy reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows.
The moomins are a family of small, fuzzy creatures with round snouts and frilly tails. Young Moomintroll and his parents, Moominmamma and Moominpappa, live in a tall, round, blue house in Moominvalley, along with a variety of odd friends and adopted children. These include the philosophical Muskrat, the morose Hemulen, the Snork and his Snork Maiden sister (who is devoted to Moomintroll), the ruggedly independent Snufkin, and the childish Sniff.
In this book, a follow-up to the official first book in the series titled Comet in Moominland, we follow the adventures of the Moominfamily from the end of one winters sleep to the beginning of the next. On the first day of spring, Moomintroll and his friends discover a magical tophat lost by the legendary Hobgoblin. This hat soon shows its power to transform anything placed inside it, leading to a variety of whimsical and unpredictable adventures.
The moomins also visit a lonely island where they encounter the creepy Hattifatteners. Then they adopt the mischievous twins Thingumy and Bob, who are on the run from the sinister Groke (a creature who sucks the warmth out of everything it touches). Finally the denizens of Moomindale throw a big party, attracting the notice of the wish-granting, panther-riding Hobgoblin himself.
This story contains things that every child can understand particularly children who live in a climate where winter casts a depressing shadow over a major portion of each year. It is a cheerful, innocent story about children playing, imagining, quarreling, and making up. It has a treasure hunt, and magic, and a mock trial, and a picnic, and a game of Tarzan in the drawing room. It has puppy love, wistful farewells, characters who speak in spoonerisms, a thrilling fishing expedition, and a terrible storm. And it very gently teaches that what really matters is not money and expensive stuff, but beauty and happiness and goodness.
As soon as I read this book, I went online and ordered all the other books in the series. This is the kind of book parents will love to read to their children, and that certain thoughtful, sensitive children will enjoy reading to themselves. The secret of Moominland has been kept far too well; I had never heard of it before I saw this book at New York Citys Books of Wonder. I suspect that more people know of it from the Japanese animated film and TV series loosely based on it than from the books themselves. I hope this series will become better known.
Recommended Age: 10+
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