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Comet in Moominland (Moomins) Paperback – September 1, 1991
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"The adventures of the easygoing Moomintrolls have all the crispness and tart surprise of a lingonberry, thanks to Jansson's ineffably light touch, her uncanny sensitivity to universal childhood emotions, and her gift for terse, naturalistic dialogue."--Entertainment Weekly
"This book in Jansson's series about the Moomins and their friends-small, indescribable Scandinavian creatures-tells of their adventures in trying to save themselves from a comet. A gentle, offbeat fantasy." --The Horn Book
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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!)