Tag Archives: Moomins

Forævar and ævar

The very lovely, and kind, Ævar Þór Benediktsson, is very lovely. And kind.

Just thought I’d mention that. He likes me. This is understandable, if unexpected. He read my recent blog post about Moomin mugs and about having too many or – as in my case, and the former case of Daniel Hahn’s – of owning just the one.

So he emailed to ask how he could send me something. I told him.

And it has arrived! The something being my second Moomin mug!!!

And, it’s weird. I am a witch. We know that. But I didn’t know that Ævar is too. Because another thing about Moomin mugs is that you sort of know what your next one would be if you were to go shopping. And that’s precisely the mug Ævar sent me… The Moomin house; the mug with a hat.

Moomin mug

Isn’t it wonderful?

Now, what else could I blog about that would make someone want to give me presents?

Except this won’t work, because I do my witching for no reward. I can’t be bought. In this Moomin mugs instance I remained completely oblivious to even the possibility that an Icelandic author might suddenly be afflicted by a bout of generosity and send me such an exquisite gift.

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More Moomin mugs

How time passes…

You will remember the Aarhus 39 story collections. Yes, you will. In the younger one there was a rather lovely story by Ævar Þór Benediktsson called The Great Book Escape, in which a dedicated librarian discovers that all the books in her library have disappeared. She reacts as any sensible librarian would do by dropping her favourite mug. It’s a Moomin mug. Obviously.

Some pages later, after looking into this dreadful state of things, ‘she sighed deeply and took a gulp from a different Moomin mug (anyone who owns one Moomin mug owns at least three).’ And then she knew what to do.

That statement about owning more than one Moomin mug, is so true. And yet not.

In a blog nine years ago I wrote about School Friend and her thirteen mugs. I’m surprised, but relieved, that it was as long ago as that, because I’d been wondering how I was going to explain away her current number of Moomin mugs, which is too great for me to even know, other than that her cupboards are brimming over. (I believe she’s a bit touched.)

But I only have one Moomin mug, so don’t fit the pattern of multiple Moomin possessions. I’m quite happy with the one, but now fear a situation such as our librarian experienced.

I admitted this pitiful state of affairs to Daniel Hahn last month, as he is the editor of the Aarhus 39 collection. And actually, it seems that he was in an identical position until quite recently, and happened to mention this to Ævar, and was duly presented with a second mug when they met.

Danny can now afford to drop one.

Moomin mugs

Translated

It should have been like Desert Island Discs, where you are encouraged to think beyond the world of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. The authors should have been told that ‘no, you can’t have the Moomins; people always pick it. Think of another translated book!’ (Apologies to Gill Lewis who was allowed to choose the Authors’ Author.)

After all, the rest of the world must be able to offer one or two children’s books not originally published in English (which is a great language, but not the only one). There’s the Moomins. Still leaves at least one other book.

In The Guardian’s list of favourite – translated – children’s books nine authors have picked theirs. It’s everything from Tove Jansson and Astrid Lindgren to Janne Teller and Kim Fupz Aakeson and Niels Bo Bojesen. It is a varied list. But I suppose I’d hoped for something different. As I said, ban Astrid and Tove, and probably Erich Kästner, too, and what do you get?

The Resident IT Consultant muttered about classics, but it’s hard enough to get children to read English language classics. I’d like to see more recent fiction translated. You know, the kind of books German and Italian and Finnish children have enjoyed in the last five or ten years. (And I don’t mean Harry Potter!)

I don’t know what they are. That’s why I rely on publishers, whose job it is to bring out books. But I do know that the few modern French books I’ve read, have all been better than average. I’m suspecting there could be more where they came from.

Even setting aside very country specific fiction, there must be a few books that would appeal to British and American children? I’m not counting the Australians or readers in New Zealand, because those countries seem more open to books from ‘other’ places.

Mårten Sandén, whose book I reviewed on Monday, has written lots of books. He’s not the only Swede to have done so. Take a group of successful children’s writers from maybe ten countries, and you should have a lot of choice. Nordic crime is popular with older readers, so why not for children?

There are one or two ‘crime novels’ from my own childhood which still stand out in my memory. I have no idea how well they’d do today. It could be that the grass seemed greener then. In which case there must be some fresh grass to replace my hazy memories.

Gunnel Linde, Osynliga Klubben och Kungliga Spöket

And if you think children don’t want to read about strange children in strange places, there were millions of us who consumed Nesbit and Blyton despite their foreign-ness, and don’t even get me started on Harry Potter…

Small world

‘It’s a shame Adèle Geras moved away from Manchester,’ sighed Mrs Moomin. We had lunch together yesterday, despite it being Friday the 13th. I’m always a bit startled when conversations go in unexpected directions, and I forget that Mrs Moomin knew Adèle for ages, living near her. Considering my limited social life, I’m surprised I have managed to know two people who separately know Adèle.

Mrs Moomin and I were at a Swedish lunch, doing our best to avoid being 13 at the table, and managed something like 14 1/2. Borås Girl hosted, and we all brought some food. (To tell the truth, I didn’t do well. I ran out of time, so offered the bare minimum pilfered from my freezer.) These ladies are seriously good at cooking and baking. There was even Swede salad.

OK, if I can just tear my thoughts away from the cheesecake, I’ll get to Borås Girl’s Swedish speaking Estonian friend, Mrs Linguist, whom she met at her German class. I’ve been passing Swedish DVDs for BG to lend her friend, and felt I ‘knew’ her slightly, so it was good to chat when we met. As civilised people we swapped business cards, and that’s when she worked out we had already been in contact with each other.

I am very forgetful, but recalled sending a perfect stranger some pages from an Astrid Lindgren book a few years ago. (No, I didn’t tear them out. I copied.) Mrs Linguist was the perfect stranger, introduced by Professor Linguistics who reckoned I was the likeliest person she knew who would own a copy of the Bullerby book. Very astute.

So that was nice. More coincidences.

Mrs Linguist was accompanied by Baby Linguist (who, quite frankly, was not too keen on all those cackling women), and her visiting Estonian Mother. None of us could muster up any Estonian, but Mrs Moomin spoke to her in Finnish. And that’s something I didn’t know. That many Estonians understand Finnish, because for years that was their escape from ‘Russian only’ television.

The rest of the ladies concentrated on passing round a couple of battered Swedish crime paperbacks by Mari Jungstedt, and a Swedish DVD, before going gaga over Brian Cox, because he’s so cute… (He wasn’t there, btw. We happened to slip onto the subject of Astrophysics, after which there was no stopping them.)

We were temporarily saved by the aforementioned cheesecake. I’m going to need the recipe.

Bookwitch bites #35

So many awards! So little time (in which to keep up with things)! Jon Mayhew has been finding his Mortlock on a number of shortlists. Sefton. Worcestershire. Warwick. Cheshire. Now ‘all’ I have to do is see if he wins. He should, but he’s up against big names and excellent books.

Lists, spreadsheets, numbers. The weekly cultural ‘spreadsheet’ in G2 which covers films and theatre and things, quoted the Observer about My Dad’s a Birdman at the Young Vic as ‘has as much panache as pathos’. Until I know how much panache Pathos has it’s not very helpful. Is he another musketeer?

From musketeers to Moomin, or more specifically to the very entertaining Mark Levengood, the Swedish speaking Finn who is famous all over Sweden. As a child he asked his mother if he was adopted. A bit like many of us have done, while possibly feeling insecure. ‘No. Not yet,’ was the answer.

And finally, this post is my bites no. 35. That’s OK, because more bites, means more news, and some general waffling, for which we will not charge extra. But a second Bookwitch? Honestly. Someone registered with the Guardian online has had the nerve to call themselves Bookwitch2. Didn’t sleep for several days after seeing that. Nights, I mean. Never sleep in the day.

Cough.

Scaring me, scaring you

My heart has resided in my throat for a little while now. It’s an uncomfortable place to keep it, but it’s Halloween. Or very nearly. I thought I’d go in for some horror and other scary stuff for a few days, but quite frankly had not anticipated being scared by Tove Jansson.

Detail of front cover 'The Dangerous Journey' by Tove Jansson

The very last Moomin illustrations by Tove herself are about to be published in English as The Dangerous Journey. The story is in verse, which was first translated and then handed over to Sophie Hannah for some poetic English. And while I don’t know the original (though I did check online and found the odd quote, which looks just right) I feel the result is terrific.

It’s the illustrations that make this book so marvellous. Though it’d be better to call them paintings, as they really are Art with a capital A. They are sort of scary, but so beautiful that you can just sit there and look at them. And look at them.

Detail of back cover 'The Dangerous Journey' by Tove Jansson

The story is another matter, however. One Swedish reviewer pointed out that bedtime was not a good time. It’s about Susanna and her cat, and the little girl unwisely wishes things would be different. And the next thing she knows, they are. Scarily different.

So she wanders off through this new landscape, seeing weird and frightening things, and meeting many of the characters from the Moomin stories, and together they walk on, still seeing a changed world.

Until they suddenly find themselves in Moomin’s garden with all the regular – and friendly – people waiting for them. It’s like being in a book, she thinks.

Well, maybe she was.

My heart is still up there banging away. But I do remember being read scary young children’s stories when I was small, so it could be that it’s just because I’m old that I feel like this.

You can count on Moomin

Literally. There is a whole new batch of books about the Moomins, and I’ve ‘read’ two.

I quite liked the board book Moomin’s little book of Numbers. It’s bright red, and I’m not sure why that helps, but it looks very cheerful. It’s just about learning the numbers from one to ten, and there are obviously loads of such books, but it’s nice to have the Moomin pictures.

Moomin and the Birthday Button

The second book is Moomin and the Birthday Button, which is basically a picture book about how his friends seem to have forgotten Moomin’s birthday. It’s a sweet little story, but it feels like I’ve come across the same plot countless of times in other books. That doesn’t mean that a new generation of prospective Moomin lovers won’t enjoy it. I’m sure they will.

The slight feeling of unease that I’m experiencing is because I’m not sure if it’s all right to produce new Moomin books now that Tove Jansson is dead. I’d like to know who has ‘written’ them, and who made the pictures. It only says based on the characters created by Tove Jansson. The copyright is with the Moomin ‘company’, which is only to be expected.

What I don’t know is if these are exclusively Puffin’s books. I went hunting online, and found an article from Finland earlier this year. It seems that the contract with Puffin for ten new books is the largest they’ve ever had in Finland. I take that to mean in publishing or even in children’s publishing, rather than in business in general. But it’s clearly very good, and I can see why you don’t turn down something like this.

As one comment on the article said: ‘Only ten books? Why not twenty, when they are selling the soul of a dead author?’

But then I’d rather have a new generation discovering Moomin, than Disney books. It will be older Moomin fans who buy for their children or grandchildren.