Springtime comes to Moominvalley, making Moominpappa and Snorkmaiden feel the need for some glamour. They decide the whole family are going to take a trip to the Riviera where they can mingle with movie stars and the jet set, and maybe win a spin or two at a roulette table while dressed in their finest outfits. Being rather less sophisticated than they imagine themselves to be, the Moomins find the Riviera to be very different to their expectations, and they have the same effect on the high-flyers they meet there too.

Hijinks and misunderstandings abound in Moomin on the Riviera, the third 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 complete 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 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 unsympathetic and at odds with Jansson’s art, introducing horizon lines and other unnecessary graphic shapes, which disrupt her original layouts, and is intrusive enough to affect the overall rating.

Parents should note that while these stories appear visually to be a perfect fit for children, Jansson wrote the Moomin newspaper strips to amuse adults first. The ideas, dialogue and situations are sophisticated, subtly existential, philosophical and often quite abstract. Jansson is an expert with layered narratives so that all her stories work on multiple levels, but there’s a lot here that will fly over children’s heads entirely and/or need explaining in a witty, ironic story that’s about gambling, romantic liaisons, modern art, contemporary philosophy and the danger of going by appearances. Next in the series is Moomin’s Desert Island.