Read For: School (*sigh*)
So, as you can see above, I read this little novel for school (for my Theory and Criticism class, for anyone's who's interested). I've never heard of Tove Jansson before, but I've discovered since reading this, that Moomins are actually HUGE in Finland and pretty much all of Europe, and even Japan, where an animated series aired for many years. Across the pond, this is a quintessential children's series, and this novel in particular (which is the fifth in the series) was a turning point apparently, though I couldn't tell you how, seeing as how I've never read the other books.
I bring all this up just to give you a sense of how foreign this book felt for me; it was quite different than most other children's novels I've ever read (and I've read quite a few), while being familiar at the same time. I don't know, it was an odd experience.
The plot was simple and straight-forward (unsurprisingly): Moomintroll, who is a creature called a Moomin, is hibernating peacefully one winter when he suddenly wakes up and finds himself in a completely different world than what he's used to. Even worse, he can't wake up the rest of his family, so he's stuck facing the winter alone. Thankfully, he does have his friend Little My (who is not a Moomin, she's.... something else) who has also woken up and meets other creatures of the winter to keep him company.
I'm not too sure how to write this review because I'm not too sure how I felt about this book. I mean, it's definitely CUTE, but it was different, and unlike anything I had read before.
I think one of the things that really threw me off was the lack of a linear plot. The book chronicles Moomintroll being awake through the winter, which is a completely new experience for him in a lot of ways, but a lot of the anecdotes the readers follow are aimless. It's very episodic in nature, but these "episodes" don't have a distinct beginning, middle or end. They just start, move along and then end kind of abruptly. This felt jarring and left me a little disoriented.
This book also have a fantasy element to it, as the world is inhabited by all kinds of strange and otherworldly creatures. At Moomintroll's family's bathhouse, someone else lives there during the winter and the house is maintained by invisible beings that we never get to see. Speaking of that, characters seem to take unnatural events in stride; Moomintroll is NOT used to being surrounded by invisible beings, but he never questions their existence or anything about them. I found that to be a little strange at first, but it was easy enough to accept.
The characters is where the cute factor really kicks in. I found Moomintroll to be a bit of a wuss, but his age is never made clear, so he could be a very young Moomin for all I know. And the pictures of him throughout the book depict as being this round and squishy looking character, which is of course inherently adorable. Little My is hilarious in her cynicism and abrasiveness. I think my favorite character was the forgetful and scatterbrained squirrel. They're all endearing characters in different ways. The nature of the book didn't really allow for character development per se, but this is also a fifth in a series, so I'm sure that characters were quite established at this point as well. Either way, they were my favorite aspect of the novel.
My second favorite aspect of the novel were the pictures and the footnotes. Tove Jansson was first and foremost an artist and her pictures in this book are excellent. They really help to bring the characters to life and to ground the readers in this strange yet familiar world. The footnotes (especially one in particular) were really cute and made me giggle a bit.
Final Verdict: This is a book I wish I had read as a youngin', because I think I could've appreciated it a lot more than then I can now as an adult. I don't have any of that nostalgia attached to this book or series. It is a good book in its own right, but there was something that was just... *strange* about the whole reading experience that I can't shake off, but I can't quite identify it either. I would still say it's worth checking out if you're interested in children's literature though, especially by foreign authors; it definitely have a foreign flare to it.