HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Moominsummer Madness: Moomins, Book 4
Author and Illustrator: Tove Jansson
Publisher: Square Fish, reprinted in 2010
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 9 – 12
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Jansson, Tove. Moominsummer Madness: Moomins, Book 4 (published in 1954 by Holger Schildts Foring, Helskini, Finland; English translation published in 1955 by Ernest Benn Limited; first published in the United States in 1961 by Henry Z. Walch Inc.; republished in 1991 by Farrar Straus and Giroux). Do you know what Moomins are? They are a family of white, roundish fanciful creatures with large snouts like hippopotamuses and are the subjects of a series of nine children’s fairy tale like books written and illustrated by Tove Marika Jansson (1914–2001), a Swedish-speaking Finnish novelist, painter, illustrator, and comic strip author. There are Moominpappa, Moominmamma, their son Moomintroll, his girlfriend the Snork Maiden, and a host of other eccentric characters. The first such book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, in which they come to live in their present home of Moominvalley, appeared in 1945, though it was the next two books, Comet in Moominland (1946) and Finn Family Moomintroll (1948), that brought the author fame. Moominsummer Madness is book number 4. The English translation was made by Thomas Warburton.
When a flood sweeps through their valley around midsummer time, the Moomins must find a new house, and one just happens to come floating by. It seems to be normal enough, although there are curtains where one wall should be, strange rows of lights, a revolving stage, and other odd amenities. So they hop on board and go riding down the river. Then Moomintroll and the Snork Maiden disappear. Can the Moomins ever make it back to their home in Moominvalley? Or has it been completely destroyed? And will they be able to find Moomintroll and the Snork Maiden? Other than references to drinking palm wine and smoking a pipe, there is really nothing objectionable or inappropriate in this story. However, it is a book of silly nonsense with a somewhat bizarre plot and a lot of rather random conversation. If one is looking for a children’s version of “theatre of the absurd,” this would fit the bill. However, anyone who is wanting a story that makes sense and follows a logical sequence would probably not care for it.
Another reader reviewer well captures my reaction. “For me this book was a mess – disjointed, self indulgent, and self important, with so many characters it left my and my child’s heads in a spin. Finally managed to struggle through it, but in hind-sight, the book had little that was coherent about it, and left me wishing we had read something else.” However, if awards impress you, for her contribution as a children’s writer Jansson received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1966. The other books in the series are The Exploits of Moominpappa, or Moominpappa’s Memoirs; Moominland Midwinter; Tales from Moominvalley; Moominpappa at Sea; and Moominvalley in November. In addition to the novels, there are five picture books (The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My; Who Will Comfort Toffle?; The Dangerous Journey; An Unwanted Guest; and Songs from Moominvalley), and the Moomins have since been the basis for a comic strip that ran between 1945 and 1993, some comic books, numerous television series, several films, and even a theme park called Moomin World in Naantali, Finland. If this kind of thing floats your boat, then have at it, but it isn’t my cup of tea (to mix metaphors badly).