The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My
Written & Illustrated by Tove Jansson
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
D&Q’s done very nice work collecting Tove Jansson’s trippy and delightful comic strip Moomin into a series of high-quality hardcovers. Every successive edition has been a treat of silliness, whimsical logic, family values and bizarre rural landscapes. Moomin, however, did not begin life as a comic strip. Rather, Ms. Jansson’s odd little hippopotamus-like family had their origins in children’s books. Later, picture books followed, and in 1954, the comic strip finally debuted. Justified by the success of the charming comic strip archives, D&Q has begun creating replica editions of the Moomin picture books, starting with 1952’s The Book of Moomin, Mymble and Little My.
For readers familiar with Jansson’s Moomin comics, experiencing Moomin’s travails in the form of a picture book is likely to be somewhat familiar – the whimsical tone and uplifting outlook remain unmolested – and jarring – the reliance on rhyme and rhythm make for a very different reading experience. Whether the experience is better, worse or simply different is going to be entirely on each reader. I found the simply rhyming scheme slightly distracting, repeatedly losing any sense of what was occurring. Yet Jansson’s language, marked by references to unusual creates like the Hattifatteners, flows confidently, moving Moomin and Mymble (and My) from one surprising circumstance to the next with certainty and inimitable style.
Jansson’s loopy illustrations seem to benefit from the format, as her use of simple color schemes and the larger canvas afforded by the page size offer a more perplexing and delirious vision of MoominValley. The book’s most obvious feature is that every page has a cut-away section, allowing peeks into the preceding and succeeding pages. The windows into the future don’t provide much story value other than to play off each page’s final rhyme, inevitably a suggestion to guess what zaniness will occur next, but certainly many young readers will enjoy the game.
Although the picture book does not match the dream-logic, wandering stories of the Moomin comic strip (which comes thoroughly recommended), D&Q’s first replica edition of Tove Jansson’s picture books, The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My is still a trippy good time, and suggested reading for anybody with young children who enjoy adventurous tales in fanciful lands. And it’s a treat to see comics publishers expanding their repertoire with diverse graphic storytelling projects.