Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Moominpappa, always on the lookout for new forms of entertainment, starts a new club for ‘rebel fathers’ like himself called the Knights of the Catapult. “Can’t rebel mothers join it?” asks Moominmamma. “No. Start a club of your own”, her husband replies. There are several other clubs in Moominvalley, handily enough, so when Stinky invites her to join his Robbers Club it’s too exciting an offer to refuse although she has her doubts about actually taking part in criminal activities (“Stinky dear, you really shouldn’t steal so much,” she tells him. “It’s the only thing I’m good at,” he says). And after Moominmma gets herself enrolled in another club run by the chief of police her loyalties are severely tested in this amusing farcical escapade.
Club Life in Moominvalley is the thirteenth of Tove Jansson’s 21 stories originally created in daily, black and white comic strips for the London Evening News between 1954 and 1959. Her strips are collected over five large hardcover volumes of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip and Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition, a single, big slipcased volume. This newer series of small, landscape format, flexicover books takes the Moomin strips and repackages them in individual volumes with each story newly coloured by the editorial team at D&Q to give each small book extra kid-friendly appeal. Unfortunately the colouring is frequently at odds with Jansson’s art, introducing graphic shapes and background additions which disrupt her original layouts, and using eccentric colour palettes that don’t complement the art too well.
These small flexicover books appear under D&Q’s children’s imprint Enfant, but Tove Jansson created these strips to entertain newspaper-reading adults. While these stories appear visually to be a perfect fit for children, the ideas, dialogue and subtly existential situations are often quite abstract, although Jansson is an expert with layered narratives so that all her stories work on multiple levels. The escalating silliness of this story isn’t quite as mysterious as usual, and will be easily understood by most readers. Next in the series is Moomin and the Comet.