Jenny Downham on a winter tale with a hint of delicious danger…
I wish I’d written every one of Tove Jansson’s Moomin series. Forced to choose, I’ll pick number five, Moominland Midwinter, because it’s darker and more introspective than the earlier books, with just a hint of delicious danger.
As everyone knows, Moomins sleep during the winter, and wake up when it’s spring. But in this book, Moomintroll does what no other Moomin has ever done before and wakes up much too soon. His family won’t be awake for weeks, the larder is empty, the house is buried under snow and the sun has permanently vanished. His only companion from the ‘real world,’ of summertime, is Little My, but she’s busy sliding down snowy hills on the tea tray and doesn’t have time for him. What does he do? Well, after stomping miserably about for a bit, he slowly discovers that winter is full of lonely, oddball creatures who aren’t around at other times of year, and he sets about to shelter and entertain them. Moomintroll thinks that when spring comes it will deliver him from a strange and hostile world, but discovers it’s simply a continuation of his new experiences.
This is a hilarious and tender tale about real characters with all their accompanying anxieties and sensitivities. Beautiful words. Anarchic illustrations. Tove Jansson is a genius and believe me, this book is proof!
Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson is published by Puffin (978 0 14 030502 9, £4.99 pbk).
Jenny Downham’s Before I Die (David Fickling Books, 978 0 385 65401 2, £10.99 hbk) won the 2008 Branford Boase Award.