6/10/09

"Moomin Book One: The Complete Tove Jansson" by Tove Jansson

In fifth grade I discovered the Finn Family Moomintroll books. By Finnish author Tove Jansson, these books tell odd stories about human-sized hippo-like characters who experience magic and nature in a world slightly like ours. Or, maybe more like Finland of the 30s and 40s. From the happy-go-lucky episodes of the "Finn Family Moomintroll," to the alluring private adventures Moomin experiences in the "Moominland Midwinter," to the surreal and almost frightening epic of the "Comet in Moominland," I was enraptured by the stories. I must have re-read each book at least three times, spending hours one summer in the hammock, while immersed in the frigid tale of the squirrel with the bushy tale who froze to death (or not!?). I couldn't get enough of the characters, and I was amazed both by how many people I met had never heard of the Moomintrolls, and also whenever I found an artifact from the world of Tove Jansson.

So, imagine my surprise when I was at Powell's books a couple years ago and saw "Moomin Book One: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip." I bought it for my kids (yeah, sure) but read it myself. How could these comics have never crossed my path until published by Drawn & Quarterly Press in 2006? According two the description on Powell's website:
"Tove Jansson is revered around the world as one of the foremost children's authors of the twentieth century for her illustrated chapter books regarding the magical worlds of her creation, the Moomins. The Moomins saw life in many forms but debuted to its biggest audience ever on the pages of the world's largest newspaper, the London Evening News, in 1954. The strip was syndicated in newspapers around the world with millions of readers in forty countries. Moomin Book One is the first volume of Drawn & Quarterly's publishing plan to reprint the entire strip drawn by Jansson before she handed over the reins to her brother Lars in 1960. This is the first time the strip will be published in any form in North America and will deservedly place Jansson among the international cartooning greats of the last century."
The strips have a funny revisionist quality, sort of like the Superman stories in the Sunday comics in the 40's. The characters and the drawings are the same, but the situations are different from the "real world," and the strips don't attempt to achieve a storyline like the novels. Instead they follow the antics of the Moomins as they deal with situations like a new maid, or how they react to living in a hotel on the Riviera (apparently the Moomins have been doing all right for themselves!). But, both people who are well-versed with the Finn Family Moomintrolls, and new readers will like the stories, although the comics are really only a gateway to the best stuff: the books.

When I bought the book I only saw "The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip." When I finished reading the strips I closed the book and gazed at the cover for a moment before I realized it also said: "Book One." How many more strips are there? Well, the people at Drawn & Quarterly are releasing "Book Four" in June 2009, and I hope there are many more. Click here to see a preview of "The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Book Four." (Oh, and click here for a preview of another Tove Jansson book, "The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My.")



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