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Moomin Book Four: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Hardcover – May 26, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 10 Up–Generations of children have enjoyed Jansson's books about Moomin and his family and friends. Lesser known were Jansson's series of the comic strips for adults–until Drawn & Quarterly began reissuing them in 2006. This fourth volume is, alas, the last in the series chronicling the adventures and misadventures of the hippolike Scandinavian troll, his girlfriend, and his parents. In the first of the five stories in this volume, Moominpapa accidentally builds a time machine and takes his family back to the exciting days of the Wild West. To his dismay, he finds a population of peaceful and law-abiding citizens, corrupt lawmen, and Indians who keep forgetting that they are supposed to act like bloodthirsty savages. Another story has the denizens of Moominvalley giving up their peaceful and happy life to join the rat race, while a third showcases the perils of fame and fortune, including a kitchen full of intimidating appliances. As in the previous volumes, Jansson pokes gentle fun at human foibles while driving home the message that true happiness lies in being yourself. Teens will be attracted by the simple but expressive black-and-white drawings on yellow pages, and perhaps take to heart the precepts: that which glitters may be just glitter, and some dreams are best left as dreams. Libraries that already own the previous three volumes will want to complete their set, while those that have somehow missed purchasing the series will want to do so now.–Sandy Schmitz, Berkeley Public Library, CA END
“The Moomin family strays far from the tranquil charms of Moominvalley: on the French Riviera, Moominpappa gets drunk and Moomin's sweetheart, the Snork Maiden, is seduced by a toothy film star. But then the hattifatteners appear--mute, sock-like animals that grow from seeds and chase after electric storms . . . Here is where Jansson's weird but true world begins; where fear, loneliness and insecurity are banished by love and the force of imagination.” ―Time.com
“[Jansson's] strips, more than 800 in five years, stand as perennial classics of children's literature across the Nordic lands . . . Their belated recovery from crumbling newsprint into five eventual volumes seems almost as fantastical and life-affirming as the Moomin fables themselves.” ―The Independent
Top customer reviews
While it's certainly no disaster, it has to be admitted that the first two Lars-scripted stories in this volume really don't amount to that much, and the second one seems to more or less have been abandoned midway through. The third story is better, so I suppose Lars was slowly learning how to tell a continuing story in a daily strip. The fourth story is really good. It's also scripted by Lars, but it's an adaptation of Tove's book "Comet in Moominland", so it's not all new material. The final story is done by Tove by herself, and it's a good one.
So basically, while this volume contains great Tove Jansson art all the way through, some of the scripting is a little awkward compared to the first three volumes. But it's still worth buying for the wonderful art and for the few good stories it contains.
UPDATE: apparently D&Q has confirmed that there are two concluding strips missing from two stories in this volume.... so the second story WASN'T quite 'abandoned midway through'. Still not quite a great story though. The missing strips will be printed in the next volume.
Lars's stories are about how Moominpappa builds a time machine by complete accident, when cleaning a clock and a sewing machine. He and his family see this as cause for adventure and so they go back in time to the Wild West. I've always loved Moominpappa, and his desire for action as well as his frustration at the lack of authenticity of the "Wild West" is so heartwarming, it's downright entertaining. Things don't go much better for the family in the second story, when Snork Maiden suggests they go back to Rococo times. Lasse and Tove clearly shared this world and its wittiness and jabs at life.
The jabs at life are perhaps even fiercer in the three stories by Tove. One is an adaptation of her "Comet in Moominland" novel, but naturally with its own little witty characteristic twists. The other two stories, "The Conscientous Moomins" and "Moomin's Golden Tail", however, could hardly be more a satire of human behaviour.
In "The Conscientous Moomins", a social worker tells the Moomins how irresponsibly they have been living. Moominpappa is worried and puts his new sense of duty above his sense of pleasure, to the unhappiness of his wife and son. Snork Maiden is quickly convinced, though, and so a big chain of events is set in motion where the concept of 'responsibility' sweeps Moominvalley. Yet it never completely wins the characters over; they are constantly in doubt over this new lifestyle, yet can't find a reason to go back to their good old ways (Moominpappa's adventurous spirit kicks in as he thinks the Inspector has caught a crook, only to find that it's a bug eating his roses).
"Moomin's Golden Tail" takes this subject even further, to the point when it rings so true that it becomes almost uncomfortable to read. Of course, the story starts out innocent enough; Moomin's tail is losing its tuft, for unknown reasons. One thing leads to another until eventually he has a tail of gold. This turns his life and those of all around his completely upside down. A manager imposes himself upon Moomin to control his fame and image, so the Moomins must get new furniture as well as a butler and maid, and Moominpappa's childhood friend is forced to move out. Moomin hates his fame but just can't bring himself to give it up.
Snufkin is the sole voice of reason throughout, as are the occasional musings of Little My. Yet the stories do have good endings, and the characters learn lessons that are so simple, yet so hard for us to adopt in our chaotic world. All of the aforementioned dances from Tove Jansson's fingertips; she delights in playing with the three-panel limit she had for each story sequence, with composition and linework. Her Moomin characters and the world around them is more beautiful than ever thanks to her talent - there is a clear distinction between her drawings here and in the first volume of this series.
Definitely recommended for Moomin fans and those who love witty stories with simple but great art and heartwarming characters.