Filed under: News, Reviews, Contests | Tags: book review, children's, Finland, Kevin Wilder, Moomins, Moominvalley in November, Tove Jansson
BOOK REVIEW :: BY KEVIN WILDER
“There are those who stay at home and those who go away, and it has always been so.”
While making a list last month, I came across an interview with M.T. Anderson where he mentioned his devotion for an unusual children’s series from Finland. I was intrigued and mystified. Since I’m trying to read a book a week, I figured a few off the children’s shelf might pass as acceptable. If no one called me out, I knew at least one or two could be knocked out in a single afternoon.
The thing about reading children’s books is it can feel a little silly when you’re an adult. Such was never the case with Moominvalley in November, the first I went for at the library. Having no idea this English translation of Finnish author/illustrator Tove Jansson’s book was the final in the series, I dove right in. It didn’t seem to matter. At some point I expect I’ll be reading the rest.
This Moomins book focuses on six creatures and their individual travels to the Moominfamily home. The main characters are absent, but mentioned frequently. Descriptions of autumn and the approaching winter are not only poetic, but nearly perfect at times. The writing can be funny (maybe more so in the other books?), but there’s also a great deal of pain. As suggested by the cover, the tone is rather grim, as each character deals with his or her share of loss and alienation. But the narrator speaks of spending time alone as if it’s a positive thing.
These concepts are key, and might be what make Tove Jansson’s fiction so unique. She’s made an art out of not talking down to children. Characters are selfish yet likable, and each come to complex realizations regarding their place in the larger community. Also, the quirky illustrations are so welcoming, you can’t help but get into it.
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