Friday, July 1, 2016

ReaditDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 1st July 2016: "Club Life in Moomin Valley" by Tove Jansson (Drawn and Quarterly)

Our Second Book of the Week delves into the treasure-trove archives of Tove Jansson's fantastic Moomin comics for a slice of gangsta life...
Yes, you read that correctly. Imagine for a moment what would happen if beloved children's characters cut loose and ended up falling in with some distinctly nefarious criminals.

Amazingly, the synopsis for "Club Life in Moomin Valley" reads a little bit like the plot for a pulp detective magazine story and perhaps that was Tove Jansson's inspiration for a decidedly different, dare I say "Dark" Moomin story.

Moominpapa has decided to set up his own club called "The Knights of the Catapult" but has (stupidly) adopted a "No girls allowed" policy. Moominmama wants to join, but it's a firm 'no' from Moominpapa (who I liked to imagine would spend a year sleeping on the sofa with no cuddles for this despicable transgression) leaving Moominmama no choice but to go and join a better club, with blackjack and...no we'll stop there, this is a children's book blog dagnabit!

Moominmama makes a rather ill-advised choice and ends up joining a gangster club along with Moomintroll (mum of the year, encouraging your child to join a gangster club! Moominmamma what on EARTH is in your earl grey tea? I TOLD you this isn't your average Moomin story), encouraged to take part in all sorts of nefarious and illegal activities by Stinky, the horrid beardy fuzzy criminal head of the club. The thing is, Moominmama suddenly finds herself torn between loyalty to her hubby, and a criminal organisation. Will Moominmama do the right thing in the end?

I read this through, and then read it again - thankfully coming to the conclusion that despite my rather racy write-up the fun is largely harmless and child-friendly, but hugely entertaining with more than a wry wink at any adults who dip into this expecting a tale of frivolity and animal antics and encounter something entirely different!

This is the first of Drawn and Quarterly's brilliantly presented Moomin reprints that we've seen and we're completely hooked and now want them all. I grew up with The Moomins on telly, those fuzzy-felted creatures and their (slightly weird) friends, and it's only in later life I discovered Tove Jansson's original comic strips and realised that far from being a sweet little old lady who wrote animal stories, she was a razor-sharp wit, a hugely talented observationalist and a brilliant artist. At the heart of all her stories though is a strong moral sense of right and wrong, a mischievous sense of fun and of course that genius mix of child appeal and adult appeal that has kept the Moomins firmly in the fave list of most booky folk for generations.

In "Club Life in Moomin Valley" there are so many bits where you'll snort guiltily with laughter at Moominmama's antics (and completely change your opinion of Moominpapa, who in this story comes across as - well to put no finer point on it - a bit of a git but does at least redeem himself in the end - just!)

If you're a Moomin fan and are similarly inexperienced in the original comic strips, this should definitely be one of your first ports of call (Drawn and Quarterly publish many of the strips in compilations or in individual story books like this - HOORAY!). Stunning, stunning stuff, how could we NOT make it book of the week!

Charlotte's best bit: Moominmama proves NOT to be messed with. Ever seen a mum losing her temper? Then you know not to mess with mama!

Daddy's favourite bit: A totally unexpected, darkly delicious and utterly addictive blend of familiar characters getting up to very unfamiliar things. It's child friendly (just) but with enough knowing nods and winks to adults that they'll find it breathtakingly surprising. Go get it. Now!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Drawn and Quarterly)

"Club Life in Moomin Valley"

Written and Illustrated by Tove Jansson

Published by Drawn and Quarterly

Publication Date: 17th May 2016

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