Friday, July 1, 2011

Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson

I offer the following word of caution for parents. This book is truly a delight.  However, given the theme of flooding and natural devastation, I would recommend this book with reservation given the floods and other water related disasters that have occurred.  A child who is sensitive to these current events or especially one who has survived the loss of home and even loved ones might find this book alarming and frightening.

Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson is the fourth book in the Moomin series but I’m clearly reading them out of order.

I found this book utterly enchanting.  Unlike Tales from Moominvalley, this book is a novel, with all of the lovable quirky characters one would hope to find.  For me, Snuffkin’s entrance was the one for which I had been waiting.  The story is a simple one–the valley is flooded and the Moomin family are stranded, finding shelter in a theater that floats by.  Silliness ensues because the Moomin’s are oblivious to what a theater is and cannot understand the purpose of the curtains, the scenery, and the props that purport to be food and such but clearly are not.

There is something delightful off kilter about these characters.  On the surface, the stories are rather warm and fuzzy but there seem to be some themes that, as I’ve said before, are probably beneficial to the maturing reader.  I think that because the characters are, for the most part, more like creatures than humans, there is a child-like safety in them but the stories suggest more sophisticated themes.  I’m specifically thinking of Snuffkin’s part in this particular story as he thwarts authority.  I couldn’t help but see some relationship between the typical educational system and how creativity and the innate love of learning is inevitably stifled.

As I said, for the thoughtful and questioning reader, these books are bound to stir up some ideas which is why this book is perfect for that not yet pre-adolescent who still wants the security of something cute but is ready for something that is also clever.

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