Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Moominpappa sees an ad for a lighthouse keeper in the local paper, and decides this is how he wil be able to write his great novel about about ‘the majesty of the sea’ he has always intended to create. This means the whole family have to cram as much as they can carry into a couple of rowboats and make their way to the desolate island where the lighthouse stands, above the rocks. “Pappa, do you know anything about lighthouses?” Moomin asks. “No. But somehow their blinking has always appealed to me,” his father replies, setting the tone for what is to follow.
Moomin and the Sea is number twelve 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 are also available complete in Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition, a single, slipcased compendium 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 situations are sophisticated, subtly existential, philosophical and often quite abstract, although Jansson is an expert with layered narratives so that all her stories work on multiple levels. Moomin and the Sea is less corkscrewy than some of her stories and the action is easily understood so this one won’t need much explaining. Next in the series is Club Life in Moominvalley.