The Moomins and the Great Flood – Tove Jansson

More in the Series – Moomin Valley
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 4 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.

I cannot express how much I love these books and wish I had found them sooner. This one passes the Bechdel, but only just. There are two female characters (Moominmamma and Tulipa, the girl with the blue hair), and they do direct dialogue at each other, so I am passing it. It is a children’s story, so “conversation” is always a tricky thing to pin down, so while it’s hard to say they have a conversation about something other than a man, when Tulipa leaves the party to stay with the boy in the golden tower, she and Moominmamma do have a conversation of sorts about how Tulipa would like to help them more, and Momminmamma says she will send letters. I think it’s close enough, for a fairytale. 🙂

And a fairytale this is. It is a wonderful story of a group of characters going on a journey to find Moominpappa, and encountering a number of characters along the way who help or hinder. There is a flood, of course. They experience trials and hardships, as well as lovely places full of temptation (the man with the garden made of sweets is a perfect fairytale thing), but ultimately find their way to Moominpappa and the beautiful house he has built for them, that has gotten washed, whole, by the flood, and planted down in a new place.

It’s the most perfect “you can go home after travelling, but it’s never quite the same really” metaphor, really. 🙂

Jansson has such a total knack for creating a magical world full of danger that is also somehow based in kindness and love. It’s astonishing and wonderful. C loved it, gave it not just one but two thumbs up, even though I wonder how much he understood. He was utterly entranced though.

Really lovely.

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The Dangerous Journey – Tove Jansson

More in the Series – Moomin Valley
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points.

Okay, I really am loving these books. This one, much like the last, somewhat defies the categories I’ve set up here, and so it scores lower than it deserves. It’s like gorgeous fairy-tale nonsense. And an utter delight.

While the main character, Susanna, is a named female character, none of the characters she has actual dialogue with seem to be. So I haven’t passed it on the Bechdel. Like the earlier books, I can’t really pass it on diversity, but it doesn’t exactly fail either, since it is diverse, the diversity just lies in a variety of totally fantastical beasties that don’t really map onto real-world diversity.

But the story is marvellous, and C and I both loved it (as did the little boy from next door who happened to be visiting at story-time, and so got to join in). I really think I may have to get us a set of these books for home, because they are so delightful and fun to read.

I’m not sure I can point to any particular ideological things – I am sure they’re there, because that is the neature of text. There is some stuff about the power of imagination, and that whole “be careful what you wish for” thing. There’s also some good solid stuff about taking care of each other, and of those smaller/weaker/less powerful than you, which is good.

But mostly it’s just a great little story. Recommended.

Who Will Comfort Toffle? – Tove Jansson

More in the Series – Moomin Valley
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points.
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.

We loved this book. C made me read it repeatedly. This may have had something to do with the fact that “Toffle” is quite a lot like the nickname his grandparents (and the rest of my family) call him, so he felt personally connected to the book, but I also think it’s just that it’s so frikkin’ charming!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t score that high. There is no Bechdel pass. There are a couple of named female characters, but the structure of the story is such that every other character interacts in relation to Toffle himself, so no Bechdel. I can’t really give it the diversity pass, but it doesn’t fail either, since the beings that occupy this world bear no real relationship to the real world. So there sort of is diversity – Moomin valley has lots of different kinds of beings in it – but it’s not clear that it is representative of real life diversity.

The story is essentially a love story – Toffle is looking for companionship, and he finds it in the form of Miffle, a classic damsel in distress. She is scared and in trouble and is rescued by Toffle, and they live happily ever after. In this respect it’s fairly typical in terms of gender roles, and also quite fairytale-like.

The thing I like most about it, I think, was the fact that Toffle clearly, throughout the book, wants to join in and make friends, but he is too shy and afraid to do so. But when he is presented with the opportunity to help someone, that becomes his purpose, and in that purpose he finds courage and, ultimately, love. Despite being framed in the fairly typical “damsel in distress” kind of way, there is something going on there to do with finding purpose and courage in helping others that I can’t really be upset by.

It also led C and I to have quite a conversation about making friends in general and how sometimes that can be really hard if you’re shy and you don’t know anyone, and how it’s good to be brave in those situations, but it can be difficult sometimes.

So I have given it an ideology point for that – this idea about making friends, and about finding purpose in helping others.

Honestly, like I said, we were both utterly charmed by the book, and I would absolutely recommend it despite its low score here. Wonderful stuff.

 

Moomin, Mymble and Little My – Tove Jansson

POINTS: 5 out of 10.

Bechdel:  1 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

This is a very difficult book to hang on this framework we’ve built, because it doesn’t really fit into anything. Which, of course, me being me, I absolutely love. It technically passes the Bechdel, since Mymble and Little My are both female characters as are a number of the strange beings they encounter on their journey, and there is enough dialogue, such as it is, that I’m giving it that point.

It’s hard to talk about diversity in a book made entirely of totally fantastical creatures, so while it doesn’t get that point, it’s not exactly not diverse either, if you see what I mean. It’s entirely open to interpretation.

And this, at the end of the day, is the joy of this book. It is entirely interactive. Each rhyming page ends with the refrain, “And what do you think happened then?”, inviting the reader to come up with their own ideas. (Though in fairness, C mostly said, “I don’t know! Turn the page!” but even so.) There is even  a page where the reader is invited to participate in the making of the book: “The fillyjonk when she has calmed herself – try and draw her for yourself. Tove.” This is accompanied by a blank box in which you can draw your own fillyjonk. C was deprived of this because this is a library book – but it’s still nifty! Each page has little holes in it that hint at what’s on the next page. The whole thing is an exercise in interactivity, in drawing the reader into the story process. And by now we all know how much I love interactivity.

I love the nonsense aspect too. It’s great fun, meandering through this totally fantastical world filled with weird and wonderful creatures. It was wonderful to read out loud, and C and I both thoroughly enjoyed it.

Definitely recommended.

What do you think? Are you a fan of the Moomin world? What’s your favourite nonsense story for kids?