Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson
It's wonderful to see bookshops open again and dare I say it, it feels like the world is opening up again. Businesses have been incredible with the way they have adapted during the Pandemic. Our favourite burger restaurant is operating a slick takeaway process with pre-ordering, which I hope will carry on when they reopen fully. And our local bookshop, Read, has been offering click and collect, or for a small fee, delivery in the Readmobile, a small red car filled with literary delights.
And so, excited about meeting a friend, we went for a socially distant takeaway coffee and a visit to Read where I picked up a book I had my eye on for sometime. Down the road is Oxfam books and they were having a sale! There I picked up this little gem for £3.50. A delightful little, illustrated hardback complete with pull-out maps.
Written in 1957, this the 5th out of 8 novels about the Moomin family. I had not read any of the others and it felt fine to read this as a standalone novel. Moomins are kind philosophical creatures with velvet fur and smooth round snouts. Moomins usually sleep through winter, except this year when Moomintroll wakes up. He discovers his green world has changed as the land is now blanketed with snow. There he makes new friends and begins to explore this strange new world.
Sort of Books have done a terrific job of reproducing these books. This is a beautiful hardback retailing normally for £7.99 at the time of writing. But these are perfect gifts for children who can build them up into a library. I realise I sound a bit like a TV infomercial here, but these books are so beautiful. The illustrations are the original ones drawn by Tove Jansson and really bring the story to life.
Onto the plot, and full disclosure here. When I was a child there used to be a programme all about the Moomins on the TV which appeared to have been created using fuzzy felt. It was utterly terrifying! and if I'm being honest, put me off the Moomins altogether. I am pleased that I decided to read this book though.
The book is unusual, and by that I mean it feels very different to a British Children's story. It is definitely more philosophical and does not shy away from difficult subjects such as death.
I loved the use of nature and imagery in the book. They are really quite beautiful here as Moomintroll wakes up to an unknown world, never having seen snow before. I particularly loved the imagery of the Lady of the Cold who brings the iciest and most dangerous of all temperatures. She is immensely beautiful, in a long flowing gown but if you were to look upon her, would immediately die.
There are lessons to be learned. Moomintroll shares his house (and all the jam) with creatures fleeing the cold and there are further lessons about being brave. It's all slightly other-wordly.
In a nutshell, it feels strange yet magical at the same time. Children's imaginations will truly grow with this book and this is a beautiful edition of a children's classic.