Customer Reviews: Comet in Moominland (Moomins)
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on April 26, 2003
I didn't expect this to be available in English, for some reason, but rarely have I been happier to be wrong. If you favour the existence of good children's literature, you owe it to yourself to get all the Moomintroll books. Sure, you yourself might not get that much out of them, but if you have children, it is your absolute duty as a parent to give them these books. It's what you give them to read now that will determine whether they grow up to love literature, after all - are you going to let the likes of Animorphs and Goosebumps dictate their future tastes, with their assembly-line banality, hideous nature, and utter lack of any aesthetic qualities whatsoever? I didn't think so.
A key aspect of Tove Jansson's world is that there is no conflict in it, as such. There's plenty of danger and risk, as much as the adventurous exploits of the Moomintroll would require, but there are no villains, no good-versus-evil struggle, no battle to save the world that has to be hidden from the grownups for some bizarre reason. Some of the Moomintroll books are more pastoral in nature, featuring the Moomin family just lounging around and talking to each other and various other denizens of the neighbourhood. Others feature struggles, such as this one, but they are struggles of knowledge against blind cosmic forces - Moomintroll is trying to _discover_ and _conquer_ the nature of the comet that threatens his home with destruction. This makes for suspense aplenty, and one may even forget that there are no real antagonists, no one who is willfully malicious. The closest thing to that to be found here is the menacing character of the Groke, who freezes the ground under her feet, but she is viewed with sympathy, as a part of nature as well. Nor is she deliberately malicious; she's cold and frightening by nature.
Then there's Jansson's prose and gift of description. Oh my! It's like a gorgeous watercolour. Just read the bit in the beginning where Moomintroll finds the hidden cave, or the part where Sniff and Moomintroll are travelling downriver - there's an air of adventure and beauty to that that seems to have died a lonely death in children's literature sometime in recent history. The setting is a beautiful, undefiled Nordic paradise, where nature rages unfettered and beauty exists in its balance rather than in its placidity. And how about the weird denizens of Moominland themselves - the Hattifnauts, for instance, who can't talk or do anything other than wander from place to place, hauntingly, in vast herds, exhorted by something in their nature that they cannot articulate? What about the philosophizing Hemuls with their respective passions for collecting things and putting them in order? All of these different characters reflect different aspects of human nature. They are emotionally complex, contemplative, given to reflection. Jansson's realistic (the description even says "Naturalistic," which isn't that far from the truth) dialogue brings them to vibrant life.
Apparently, various corporations have gotten their hands on the rights to Moominland, and are exploiting them for all they're worth. There's a cartoon on this theme in Japan, so I hear. But fortunately, no matter what anyone does, the original books are still right here, in all their lyricism, poetry, wonder, melancholy, and aesthetic perfection.
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on November 10, 2000
My sister and I read the Moomin fantasy stories in the 1960s, when we were children. We STILL share jokes about plot lines today! When my son was 5, I bought them and we read them. We could hardly put them down, and he wanted to read the entire series through again the minute we finished. I hadn't realized how entertaining they were for adults. Maybe it's the wry humor of Finland coming through. While these are chapter books, they do have some absolutely charming illustrations. My son ... prefers them to Harry Potter (which he is hearing aloud again at school). It's best to read them kind of in order, as there is a time line to the books insofar as characters are introduced. Comet in Moominland is the first one, in my opinion, and Moominpappa's Memoirs is last. You can read the others in any order, in between. Moominsummer Madness was a little bit weak, I thought; but the others are just terrific, children's classics! Also great take home messages subtly presented, such as: even orphans can find a family; friends help friends out of jams; people go through moods, and it's OK; people who look scary and behave strangely, can maybe just be misunderstood. I credit these books as major contributors to his outstanding love for reading. The characters are beautifully drawn, diverse and imperfect; while there is a mother, a father, and a son, family structure is not stereotyped; the plot lines keep your attention; and the prose created by the translators is superb. They may be hard to find in libraries but they are WELL WORTH the search (or purchase).
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on July 4, 2001
I'm sad that not too many people my age have read these books but I highly recomend them. I wish Tove Jansson wrote more books because I like reading about the Moomin Family and friends' adventures. I like reading them over, and over, again, because I remember that they were good books. My favorite character is the Snork Maiden because I like how she can change colors. The characters weren't ordinary animals like cats and dogs, but characters that you've never heard of before and want to know more about where they live and what they look like. Sometimes I forget what the book is about and want to read it over again so I can picture the characters more clearly so as to read the next book. I hope more kids and adults will read the Moomin books so that they can get transported into Moominland. And also learn about the wonderful characters and world of the Moomin Family and friends.
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Most great children's literature wasn't written strictly for children. Think of A. A. Milne, L. Frank Baum, E.B. White, Dr. Seuss, Wanda Gag, Daniel Pinkwater and of course Tove Jansson. All of these authors share the ability to write books that not only appeal to children and young adults, but also to fully grown adults. Tove Jansson's Moomins remain Scandanavian icons to this day. Though not as immediately recognized in the United States as in some other countries, a Moomin renaissance of sorts has occurred in 2006 following Drawn and Quarterly's publication of the complete Moomin comic strips that ran from 1954 to 1974. A series of books predated these strips and after an initial flop, "The Moomins and the Great Flood" in 1945, Moomin-mania finally took the world by storm in 1946 with the unforgettable "Comet in Moominland." Though Jansson ceased the series in 1970, the momentum never let up. Moomin operas, animated television shows and even a theme park followed. Jansson, who would have turned 100 this year, passed away in 2001 as the Moomins continued to capture the imaginations of new generations.

Anyone who reads "Comet in Moominland" will quickly discover the appeal of these marshmallowly hippopotamus-like creatures. Their strong personalities, endless curiosity and intrepid adventurousness take them and their friends everywhere, even into grisly danger. Things begin as Sniff, a ratlike creature that shares some of Piglet's traits, finds a mysterious path leading to somewhere so potentially interesting that he has to run and tell Moomintroll. Here they meet the silk monkey and eventually find a cozy cave. One night during a rain, Moominpapa lets in the muskrat, a pensive philosopher who claims to "sit and think about how unnecessary everything is." He tells of dark forebodings and of something "horrible and unnecessary" that will happen. All the while the Moomintroll, Sniff and the Silk-Monkey keep encountering symbols resembling stars with tails. The muskrat tells them of comets and that the Professors in the Observatory on the Lonely Mountains would know something about whether the comet would strike earth. Thus begins a grand Odyssean tale that leads them to aggressive crocodiles, Snufkin, a giant lizard, a deep watery hole, Hemulens who collect obsessively, a giant eagle and finally to the cigarette-laden Observatory (the professors like to smoke, how so 20th century). When they find out the comet will arrive in a short number of days, they head back home because "Moominmama," the matriarch, "will know what to do." Along the way Moomintroll saves a lovely Snork Maiden from a poisonous plant, they manage to buy items in a strange store despite the fact that they don't have a cent, they attend a dance lit by glow worms, cross the dried up ocean with stilts, nearly escape an octopus and arrive in Moominland just as everyone flees in terror away from it. Throughout, the comet looms over everything in a creepy, ominous way. It gets larger and larger and more and more intense. Yikes. Not to give anything away, but the comet does come to Moominland, Sniff spills his coffee, the cave really comes in handy and the Muskrat sits on the cake, though it was unnecessary anyway. Other things happen too, of course, such as the ending, but one must consult the book for succor. All along, the story moves with the pace of a hummingbird's heart and will even keep adults, supposedly secure in their maturity and dignified vintage, enraptured. Incredible fun.

This series by Square Fish begins with "Comet in Moominland," even though it's technically the second Moomin book. The beginning even references the flood from the real first book "(which is another story)". But the spine has a "1" on it, signifying the first book. Go figure. The details probably lie outside of most people's pay scales, but, in any case, seven more Moomin books follow "Comet in Moominland," all equally acclaimed. They encompass adventure, morality, love, family, happiness, dread, philosophy, doom, insights into humanity, humor, sadness and just life in general treated in a fantastically addictive yet serious cartoony manner. Moomin-mania is no mystery.
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on June 18, 1998
Bearing in mind that this book was originally published in 1946, one realizes that the ominous comet that is seemingly destined to destroy Moominland is none other than the atom bomb. Jansson has achieved the feat of calming children's fears about the nuclear age (she may have been the first to tackle the subject in a children's book)---and she has done it delightfully. In this charming, whimsical, and profound story, Moomintroll and Sniff journey to an Observatory somewhere in the Lonely Mountains to find out if the great comet that Moomin has seen will really come to destroy the Earth on October 7th at 8:42 pm (or possibly four seconds later). On their journey they meet up with the solitary traveler Snufkin, the Snork, and the lovely Snork Maiden (soon to become the love of Moomintroll's life), the Hemulen, and other fascinating creatures. The bleak reality of the comet is in stark contrast with, and ultimately powerless against, the loving relationships of the characters themselves. Highly recommended, perhaps the best of the Moomin books to start with for those new to Jansson's work. There is hardly a modern problem or anxiety that Jansson does not address, in her childlike wisdom, somewhere in her books. A major overlooked children's writer in this country (though quite popular in Scandinavia and, interestingly, Japan).
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on December 3, 2007
I too grew up reading these books, then bought them for my own children to read, and now still enjoy reading them from time to time - sure it is an easy read for an adult, but what better way to spend a dark, rainy day then to curl up with a fun book that brings back all those warm and happy thoughts of childhood?!

I am so delighted to find that these are still available today and recommend them to everyone, young and old alike.

If you're intrested in more great Scandinavian literature, I highly recommend Kay Nielsen, who published a book by the name of "East of The Sun, West Of The Moon" filled with fantastically magical Scandinavian folk/fairy tales and his stunning artwork! I am not sure if it is still available to buy but should be in your local library. If not if you request it they can probably send for a copy.

Hope this was helpful!!:-)

~Most Happy~
¸.·' .·'¨¨))
((¸¸.·' ..·' -:¦:- ~Lady Anne~
-:¦:- ((¸¸.·'
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Oh, where to begin?! This book, and the others in the Moomin series (though I haven't read ALL of them, I can only surmise that the ones I haven't read are similar in greatness) are just wonderful. I am the mother of a bright six-year-old who has enjoyed having chapter books read to her since she was two. It has at times been difficult to find chapter books that meet my exacting discrimination. There are a few things that I look for (or look to make sure they aren't there) in these types of books, to wit:

1) Well-written. I want there to be good sentence structure, good grammar, and VOCABULARY. Many writers of young people's fiction tend to write down to the child's level; I believe that the child can rise to the level of the book's writing (obviously, to an extent - I wouldn't expect my kindergartner to understand Crime and Punishment). And leave the slang, out please.

2) Timelessness. I am not interested in books that refer to pop culture, technology, current events, etc. Even books that were written eighty years ago, such as Swallows and Amazons (Godine Storyteller), can be utterly relevant, if they are focused on character and adventure instead of iPads and Justin Beiber (whoever he is).

3) Gentleness, Respect. I wouldn't want my child to hang out with an ill-behaved, discourteous, mean-spirited little brat, would you? So why spend time with them in books? For the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would want to read (or let their children read) something like Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus (Junie B. Jones, No. 1), in which this utterly obnoxious child uses the word "stupid" about forty times on each page and is so rude and disrespectful to everyone around her that I couldn't get further than ten pages in before I threw the book away. Gag! Hey, writers - this is not funny! If you want to portray "real" children (who are by no means always walking around with their little halos saying "Yes, ma'am") and you want to be funny about it, take a lesson from Beverly Cleary in The Ramona Collection, Vol. 1: Beezus and Ramona / Ramona the Pest / Ramona the Brave / Ramona and Her Father [4 Book Box set]. She manages to convey the reality of being (and parenting) a spirited child without making her character into an antagonist into the bargain.

4)Adventure, Excitement. Not much to add here. The plot has to keep moving. Often, this is best accomplished in books for younger children by making the book into a series of adventures, each one getting resolved as the book goes on.

Well, "Comet in Moominland" has all of that and more (as does Finn Family Moomintroll (Moomintrolls), book 2 in the series. The characters are all individual, unique "people" (imaginary creatures) with very distinct, yet believeable personalities. The main characters (Moomintroll, Sniff, the Snork and the Snork Maiden, possibly Snufkin) are all "children", and there are "adult" figures that come and go throughout the book as well, and they have a high degree of freedom. For example, when Moomintroll and Sniff (a small, treasure-obsessed animal reminding me somewhat of a rather feistier version of Piglet in The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner (Pooh Original Edition)) decide to go out on an adventure to the tallest mountain in the world, Moominmamma simply packs them a lunch and their "woolly trousers" and bids them farewell.

It's fantasy fiction at its best, but for the 4-to-8 set. (Of course, adult lovers of juvenile fiction will adore the Moomins and the world Tove Janssen has created here.)

This book has mystery, dangerous creatures, daring rescues, treasure, peril, friendship and delight by the bucketload. The dialog is superlative, the humor is wry and witty (and yet fully accessibly to children), and the meanness is kept to a minimum: the Snork can get a little snarky, and characters do occasionally tell one another to "shut up", which is unpleasant, but for this reader, those things were a small part of it, and served as "teachable moments" ("Gee, the Snork isn't acting very nice, is he?" and so forth).

I highly recommend this book, and the next one in the series, and probably the rest of them as well, although I haven't read those yet. If Amazon had SIX stars, Comet in Moominland would get them all from me! (And my kid loves it too! She even ASKS to go to bed earlier so that we have more time to read!)
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on February 6, 2016
Such a wonderful book and a lovely story. I may be older now, but I can't help but go back to reading children's books once in a while since they give me a trip of nostalgia everytime. They make you think of your own childhood and the simplicities lost to time. Like many of my friends I didn't grow up with Moomin and I only started taking a liking to the series during my senior year in high school. Quite strange, I know. Now, I'm busy trying to catch up on what I've been missing out. Comet in Moominland isn't actually the "first" book in the series by Jannson, but it could work as the first. It's a tale of a fine little adventure with a lovingly-crafted cast of characters and though the comet may be colliding with the earth soon, it reassures you that in the end everything will turn out alright.
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on December 16, 1999
I am now 20 , and all my copies of moomins have long faded away with the numerous moovings from country to country and city to city. .But after meeting my Moomin friends around 14 years ago, and having grown up with them, a place in my heart cherishes them forever.Unforgetable,and extremely moving.
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on March 26, 2006
The first time I came across this book, I had to read it for a college class on children's lit. It was such a fantastic story that I couldn't believe I had never heard about it in my childhood. My children, however, are more fortunate to have made the acquaintance with Jansson's wonderful characters. For the past month, I have been reading this story a chapter at a time to my 3 year old twins and they love it! They have developed a great affection for Moomintroll, Sniff and Snufkin so much so that their reading comprehension has soared. From night to night they can tell me every detail of what was read in the previous chapter. This isn't done with all books - just the ones that they really take to heart. And this story has a lot of heart. Essentially it's a tale of what fear does to people (or in this case creatures). Friends Moomintroll and Sniff go out on an adventure to find out about a comet and meet up with a traveler named Snufkin and then later with a Snork Maiden and her brother, as well as many other imaginative characters. I highly recommend this book to read to your preschoolers until they can read it for themselves (and they will want to). Even the seemingly odd phrasing to the American child (that comes with most books in translation) is a learning experience. The vocabulary surge with this book has been amazing. It will be a favorite for years to come.
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