Review by Woodrow Phoenix
This story begins with a disconsolate Moomin contemplating the lack of a family and deciding to end it all because he’s so lonely. However, when two strangers who happen to look surprisingly similar fish him out of the water, a wonderful reunion takes place as Moominmamma and Moominpappa are reunited with their long-lost son. You’d think such a joyous outcome would be enough to keep them satisfied for months but being Moomins, restlessness soon overtakes them. Moomin’s best friend Sniff, and his other great friend the free sprit Snufkin, arrive along with Snorkmaiden to help Moomin deal with his new circumstances.
Moomin and Family Life (1955) is the second of Tove Jansson’s 21 stories originally created in daily, black and white comic strips for the London Evening News between 1954 and 1959. The entire run is collected in 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 Jansson’s original strips and repackages them in individual volumes. Because each story is self-contained but not too long–generally around fifty to sixty strips–they lend themselves very well to being collected as little books. To make them more marketable, these have been newly coloured by the editorial team at D&Q to give each small book extra kid-friendly appeal. Unfortunately the styling frequently conflicts with Jansson’s layouts and the unusual colour choices often detract from her graphically sophisticated designs.
At first glance the beautiful and friendly appearance of Moomin and Family Life seems ideal for children but the complex language and often quite abstract ideas are way beyond the life experience of the average young reader, because the original audience for these strips was newspaper-buying adults. There is nothing here to frighten or disturb a child but much of the action will go over their heads and characters will need explaining. Older readers will enjoy the multiple layers of wit and commentary in this book, and the series continues with Moomin on the Riviera.