I had lately begun to feel that Mariam and I were in a bit of reading rut. We read a number of really fantastic books together last year, but towards the end of my pregnancy I was super exhausted and fairly grumpy (especially towards bedtime) so we had kind of moved back in the direction of rereading favorite (short) picture books instead of the chapter books we had been using for nightly read-aloud time. Then, my dad sent Comet in Moominland to Mariam as a gift. Just a few chapters in, it was clear that picking up the other books from the Tove Jansson series was a must-do. We quickly read two, and then ordered four more. We've been reading them day and evening both, and plans are already in the works to reread them once we've gotten through the first pass.
I'm not sure how I previously missed the thorough and amazing genius of the Moominland series, but there is certainly no time like the present when it comes to remedying such an unfortunate situation. These books are good in the way that Pippi Longstocking, The Phantom Tollbooth and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler are good. They are fantasy for the whole family; gentle, subtle and clever. Full of understated adventure underpinned by subtle lessons about friendship, loyalty and flexibility in the face of life's unexpected, the Moomin family tales might be my favorite kids' literature find in recent memory.
The books have a mid-century Scandinavian sensibility about them that will likely appeal to fans of Astrid Lindgren and Elsa Beskow and I especially like the fact that the natural world plays a starring role in the series. I also like that there is much that happens in each story that is inexplicable, magical and strange and that for the most part, the inexplicable remains that way. Jansson doesn't make too much out of trying to clarify every mysterious event that takes place in the stories, and the result is a feeling of enchantment that is enjoyable, funny and unique.
I haven't had much success finding books from this series in our own local libraries, perhaps because the titles seem to be just beginning their renaissance as popular children's literature. However, I believe that Amazon has a deal going where you can get the fourth book free when you buy three of them, and they are certainly worth having copies of your own for reading again and again. Speaking of which, Mariam is home from school today with a sore throat, so off I go to read her another chapter of Moominsummer Madness. I better hurry too because I'm pretty sure that she's reading ahead without me right now.