Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Tove Jansson

Patsy Jones recalls the place of the Moomins in children's literature and their return to the book shelves for a new generation of readers to enjoy.

Recently, as I was browsing in one of Hobart’s bookshops, my eye was caught by a name I remembered – Tove Jansson. I remembered her as the author of a series of children’s books about the Moomins, of which my daughter had been a great fan. Somehow or other I had never been captivated by these books as my daughter had, but it seemed as if it was time to consider their impact on a grandmother……

Tove, born in Finland in 1914, lived through two European wars and great changes in her homeland. At the time of her birth the Grand Duchy of Finland was a part of the Russian Empire, but through the twentieth century became an independent nation-state. Tove’s family belonged to the part of the Finnish population that were Swedish-speaking, so her books were first published in Swedish (the Finnish language is linked with the Hungarian language rather than Scandinavian languages).

Tove was highly regarded as a writer, not just in Finland and Scandinavia, but by the world. She was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award gold medal for writing in 1966, and in 2004 she featured on the Finnish Children’s Culture commemorative coin.

The first Moomin book was The Moomins and the great flood, published in Swedish in 1945 but only recently published in English. It appears to have the characteristics of many initial books in a series, not enjoying the great popularity of later books about Moomins, most of which were published in English by Puffin, soon after their initial publication in Swedish, and which my daughter read with enthusiasm.

The publisher of this first book, Sort of Books, has also published Sculptor’s daughter: A childhood memoir. This, published in Swedish in 1968, contains several short stories and was written ‘specifically for adults rather than children’ according to the introduction by Ali Smith, and initiated Tove’s move to adult fiction.

Patsy Jones

CBCA(Tas) Treasurer, retired librarian, retired teacher

Editor's note: Tove Jansson is also recognised for her pioneer work as a female comic book artist and a new animation series is on the storyboard.

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