Tag Archives: Sophia Jansson

The Moomins of Moominvalley

Philip Ardagh

As we entered the Corner theatre at Sunday lunchtime, there was a creature sitting quietly in the corner (where else?) of the room. It was Philip Ardagh, pretending he wasn’t already there. Quite eerie.

Once Jane Sandell had introduced ‘the best’ author, big in Germany (I’ll say!), Philip asked us a question. I’m afraid I have forgotten which one, but we all raised our hands, and he commented on our ‘fine variety of armpits.’

The World of Moominvalley

It seems there is more to Tove Jansson and the Moomins than the mugs.

The young Philip liked going to the library. He also liked book tokens. In the library he discovered his first Moomin book, which was Comet in Moominland. (Snap.) Before long his collection of Moomin books had grown, later supplemented with some ‘nice to have, stolen property’ in the shape of a few early hardbacks, so battered and unwanted the library didn’t want to keep them.

(We had better mention that Philip obviously didn’t mean any of these admissions to criminal behaviour.)

Getting on to business, he showed us his own new book about the Moomins – The World of Moominvalley – with pages and pages of facts about every last little creature in Moominland. He’s done a lot of research, although he did also have the help of an assistant. And he’s been hanging out with Sophia Jansson…

The World of Moominvalley

Philip is Sniff. (At least he didn’t say Little My!) There was some pondering on how – when you are not wearing clothes – you can have a pocket watch. Also, what’s the difference between a Snork and a Moomin? (Snorks can change colour.) The Moomins have a different kind of ancestor to you and me; as their ancestors are still alive, coming out to live in their house when the rest of them hibernate.

Frank Cottrell Boyce wrote a couple of chapters for this book, as he’s a Moomin fan, too. Apparently, he is also married to Little My. In Philip’s words, Frank ‘is an extraordinary man, and so is his wife…’

The audience was quite a knowledgeable one, meeting Philip’s standards regarding all things Moomin. There was one hairy moment discussing ‘girly pink’ but it was almost OK.

Another author in the yurt had informed Philip that ‘you’re exhausting.’ Something to do with his Sheldon-like fascination for certain things, maybe?

I hardly snoozed at all. At one point the Photographer prodded me to make sure I was awake. And I was. Really. (It was the early start. Nothing to do with the Moomins. Or Philip Ardagh.)

Philip Ardagh

‘I’ve been sensational,’ he told us, when it was time to go.

(Photos Helen Giles)

Authors in the kitchen

The 2011 author calendar has landed. I know. It’s late. I put my order in late. The calendar maker was busy. After which the calendar maker made, and I was too busy to proofread. There were two 27th of Februarys. No 28th. That’s been fixed.

Then there was the printing of. Ran out of time. Then ran out of legs. Eventually stashed laptop in bag on back and dragged myself upstairs towards printer. And printed. And guillotined. Even worked out a way for authors not to have their heads stapled.

No, I mean hole punched. It always used to look so uncomfortable with the little hole at the top of their heads. And heads are useful things for authors to have.

2011 calendar

This year’s crop is exclusively from the Edinburgh festival, so if you weren’t there you’re not in. If you’ve been in before, you are less likely to be in this time. And in the end it was down to best photos, and then the calendar maker was allowed final say.

At the moment I have Lucy Christopher smiling away. She will be followed by Marcus Sedgwick, after whom come Francesca Simon, Stuart Neville, Eleanor Updale, Sally Gardner, Keith Gray, Debi Gliori, Philip Ardagh, Jacqueline Wilson, Theresa Breslin, Michelle Lovric and Sophia Jansson.

Yes. That is 13 names. Two share. And Ardagh has been before, but since my pet name for him is Calendar Boy, I suppose it’s OK. Fully dressed. Always.

And all the heads intact.

It’s not easy having a kitchen wall 13 cm wide. In fact, that is anything but wide. 13 cm narrow, is what it is.

Knowing when to stop

I’m knackered. I’m so grateful I’m not ‘on the road’ right now. But I most likely would have been if lack of funds had not prevented me from booking a few more trips to do with books. So that’s good.

It’s very easy to decide to do something when that something is in the future. I just look at the programme and think how much I’d like to see X or hear Y, or simply that it’d be generally fun to be at the Z book festival. It’s like going shopping for food when you’re hungry.

Today is the last day of the Gothenburg Book Fair. Despite this year’s programme not being totally to my taste, I was very tempted by it. A good many of the Nordic murderers were there. Along with Alexander McCall Smith, on account of this year’s theme being Africa. Hence Henning Mankell, and Deon Meyer. Nadine Gordimer. Sophia Jansson, various famous singers (Swedish ones) and Eva Gabrielsson of Stieg Larsson fame. This year’s ALMA winner, Kitty Crowther. Etc.

Luckily Experience spoke to me. She said that after Edinburgh I’d be so relieved not to be going anywhere else. I’m glad she knew.

On that basis, and had I gone to Gothenburg, I knew I wouldn’t get to Bath this year either. I’ve spent several years not going to Bath. Bath, of course, is special in that it’s only children’s books and children’s authors. So it’s really where I ought to be. But then, half the authors in Bath I’ve already seen elsewhere.

I’ve not even looked at the Wigtown Book Festival. Well, truthfully, I have, but only just now. I had to quickly avert my eyes, and I told myself that finding somewhere to stay would be really hard. And travelling could present problems. Probably. I only knew it’s on, as everyone on facebook seems to be going.


And don’t get me started on Cheltenham. I so want to go. But at the same time I’m blessing every day I have at home, with nothing special happening at all. I wake up and (almost) smile at the thought that I can cook and clean and blog and not go anywhere.

I may even get to my two remaining interviews. Once I’ve found a little more of the house under all the assorted debris. One thing Experience forgot to mention was the effect of seven weeks away while the house still had someone living in it.

She was no Moominmamma

Instead it was Tove Jansson’s own mother who inspired the creation of Moominmamma. (And yes, that’s an awful lot of m’s all at once.)

Here is the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s first Bookwitch interview. Tove’s niece Sophia talks about her famous aunt and those ‘ugly’ creatures, the Moomin family, as well as the new books.

I really, really wish you could hear this interview in the original. Well, half of it, anyway. The witch sounds absolutely awful, but Sophia’s Finnish-Swedish accent is so beautiful. It’s like listening to Little My, except she’s not angry, or even a little sharp.

Sophia Jansson

Sophia’s English is extremely good, but it still felt natural for us to speak Swedish. Any peculiarities in the translation are entirely my fault. And as tends to be the case these days, not even native speakers can manage without the odd English word.

(And as Tove Jansson seems to get out and about all the time, here is a link to Normblog from the last few days.)

Not totally translated yet

But almost. However, sleep beckoned before the Sophia Jansson interview had been fully translated. And those best laid plans of witches went slightly awry. The idea was: have a day off and get all the pending work done.


There just might be two or three readers who will feel they can do the original Swedish interview justice. So pop across and do your best. I suppose you can always look at the pictures. Sophia looked lovely in lime green.

Sophia Jansson

So what do you people expect to get up to in an outhouse? According to Sophia the beginnings of Moomin may have taken place in one. Always one to call a spade a spade (which might be stored in the outhouse) I’d rather call the possible birthplace of Moomin a privy.

Where you… Well, you know. And while you’re at it you can just start a new literary success.

And if that’s not how Moomin began (authors do lie a lot, don’t they?), then it was that uncle of Tove’s, in Stockholm, who had Moomins in his kitchen. Something about cold breaths.

Fairly sure someone had come across Hattifatteners in a privy, too. So, lots going on in those places.

Actually, better not to think about it. Now that I think about it.

Beginnings and ends

Philip Pullman

It was a case of the incredible shrinking camera syndrome. The press photographers’ cameras were bigger than ever. My photographer was off building rockets in Leicestershire. Why? My replacement photographer did a sterling job with his smaller toy, and when he went off to hear the bishops speak (and Philip Pullman, it has to be admitted) all that was left was me and my teeny weeny camera. So, some photos are not nearly as good as the subjects deserve. And the photocall session with Sophia Jansson didn’t run late and it wasn’t cancelled, as sometimes happens, and is understandable. It ran early, so ran without us.

Introductory singing

Carol Ann Duffy

Jason Bradbury

Shock horror. Edinburgh is not being dug up. Last year’s dust and large wholes in the ground have moved elsewhere. There are tramlines in the streets. Didn’t see any trams, but tramlines are a wonderful thing on their own. Really.

Due to technical problems, this blog post is delayed. It is also going to be too short. And you, at the back, I heard you when you shouted ‘YES!’. It should be longer, and I may add things later when I’ve worked out how to write round a nonexistent internet supply. If I shout loudly enough, can you hear me?

Garth Nix

I started off with that Australian ‘walled garden-cum-watersprite’ author, otherwise known by his real name of Garth Nix. I know nothing about Garth, nor have I read any of his books (although the first one called Ragwitch, has a certain ring to it), and it was quite refreshing to sit down and listen to someone from scratch. I’ll only say here that the man is a liar of such proportions that even I am astounded. But charming, nevertheless.

Then Penelope had me foxed. I can’t cope with people who change their hair. And Penelope (Eleanor Updale to you) had not only done that but changed all the rest of her, too. So when she hugged Nicola Morgan I could only recognise Nicola.

Meg Rosoff

Later in the day it was time to listen to Penelope interview the Dukakis presidential campaign press release writer, aka Meg Rosoff. (I wish she hadn’t admitted to that!) She thinks about her funeral too much, and she also said a very dubious thing about the younger generation, which I will not repeat here. This ‘deeply immature adult’ finds ‘America such a weird place’, and she kept going on about dogs that weren’t there. Of course they weren’t. (She also had the nerve to ask me for a cut of 10%. Of what, I ask you?)

Julia Eccleshare of the Guardian got a lesson from Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia on how to pronounce Tove. She did remarkably well for someone her age. This adult event was full of adults. They all knew about Moomin and Tove. Real Jansson nerds, I’d say. Lots of good, although sometimes long, questions. The answers were also good.

Sophia Jansson

Afterwards replacement photographer and I had our interview with Sophia, but not until we’d been thrown out of a yurt. And that was not my fault. It was my very first interview in Swedish, so we shall have to see how that went. I think Sophia must have had a curse on things connected with her, since not only the photocall session disappeared for us, but the much admired recorder thingy I use was not performing as well as it should have. (But that was my fault.)

It may have been the first day in business for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, but it was also the last day for Fascinating Aïda on the fringe. Before I went home to my lonely garret, I went to see them sing rude songs again. Heard them, too, obviously. Dillie Keane had promised me they’d stand up for me at the end, and they did.

But at least it was a nice day. The weather did its best to prove it doesn’t have to rain, just because it’s the Edinburgh Festival. That’s all down to Meg Rosoff’s clothes. She dressed for rain. And my umbrella might have helped, too.

Monday – take one

I’m working backwards here, so need to put in the earlier part of Monday before we’re into a new week. By some unexpected miracle your witch managed to fit in an unplanned visit to the Puffin presentation early afternoon. This meant even more authors and book plans in one short day, but after travelling on the same train as Scrappy the ferret, I felt up to almost anything.

I swear (sorry) that those conference rooms have shrunk in the two years since I was last there. What did they do? Wash them?

With my usual skill I plonked myself down on just the right chair to have my coat where all the attending authors could stumble over it on their way in to speak. Or on the way out. None did, though, and it was a Puffin telephone of some sort that was eventually brought down by Jeanne Willis. Or vice versa.

Jeanne was elegant in a black top with leopard skin effect (it was, wasn’t it?) trim, and white blonde hair straight out of an early 1960s film. She has two new picture books on the way, and she had everyone but me singing a song about bottoms. Apparently ‘pythons only have them in their dreams.’ And Jeanne carried some insect cadaver round in a small metal tin. (Just thought you might want to know.)

Puffin themselves will be 70 this year and, surprise surprise, they are publishing some books to celebrate. Cheap Pocket Money Puffins at £3.99, written by some real favourites of mine, which I like the sound of. Classics, naturally. Some frightfully expensive limited edition books that will cost £100.

I’ll happily try out some of their merchandise, like the Puffiny deckchairs, so a couple of samples would be most welcome. There will be samples I hope? Or at least a mug? (Hint – we could do with five.)

Eoin Colfer appeared, but only on screen. Still lovely, and he told us Artemis will be lovely too, and that just isn’t right. Charlie Higson talked about taking your children to see zombies. I don’t think so, Charlie. Trailer for the new Percy Jackson film, coming soon. Rick Riordan has a new series coming. Two new series, in actual fact. The richer authors get, the faster they write.

Cathy Cassidy was another one not caught out by my coat. She has a new ‘chocolate box’ series starting, which sounds great. I have a feeling Cathy’s only thinking of the research, however.

Vampires. Goes without saying. Samurais. Coming faster and faster. How do authors suddenly write twice as fast as before?

Alex Scarrow and David Yelland reprised their talks from November. Alex’s Time Riders is high on the TBR pile, so we’ll have to see how that goes.

The star of the show was Sophia Jansson, Tove’s niece. There is a new range of Moomins on the way, including baby board books, but where are they coming from? I believe they are writing new ones, with Sophia watching over them. What do we think of that?

There will be teen books. I’m still amazed that Sarah Dessen isn’t yet a household name in Britain. She will be! Helen Grant’s Glass Demon is coming and so is iBoy by Kevin Brooks, and I gather it’s a cross between Spiderman and The Wire. Well!

Tasty sandwiches at the end, well worth waiting for, but what do you do with over-mayonnaisey fingers when meeting authors?

I cornered Sophia Jansson before the others discovered her, and we had a discussion in Swedish about blogs and other online nonsense. She, sensibly, has no time for blogs or Facebook or Twitter. This Little My has a Tove Jansson empire to run and a lovely holiday island to spend her summers on. She told us that Moomin was first thought up by Tove’s uncle in order to scare her from having midnight snacks in his kitchen. The Moomintrolls live in the kitchen walls. Perfect for baby books then…