Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Moominmamma’s Maid is the sixth of Tove Jansson’s 21 stories originally created in daily, black and white comic strips for the London Evening News between 1954 and 1959. This story introduces new neighbour, Mrs Fillyjonk, who moves in next door and is so appalled at the chaotic way the Moomins live – a tree in the living room and dirty dishes kept under the bed – that she shames them into hiring a maid. Misabel (note her name) labours night and day under a crushing sense of duty, which just adds to Moominmamma’s shame. Will her exemplary high standards change the Moomins or will they change her? And what does her arrival have to do with Mrs. Fillyjonk’s sudden mysterious disappearance?
This 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 Drawn and Quarterly to give each small book extra kid-friendly appeal. Unfortunately the colouring is frequently at odds with Jansson’s art, introducing horizon lines and other graphic shapes, which disrupt her original layouts. Readers seeing this story for the first time may find Book Two of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip to be a better reading experience with the art presented as Jansson originally created them. The other 20 strips are available in Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition, a single, slipcased compendium volume.
It is also worth noting that these small flexicover books appear under D&Q’s children’s imprint Enfant, but Tove Jansson created these strips to entertain newspaper-reading adults. The beguiling images will pull younger readers in easily, but the action and much of the dialogue are more complex than any children’s book and will need explaining. Next in the series is Moomin Builds A House.