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Moominpappa At Sea by Tove Jansson (2009-07-28)

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    Tove Jansson(Author)

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Review Text

  • By Owl on August 5, 2016

    "Bringing darkness into light" so ends an 8th century Irish poem about a scholar & his cat, Pangur Ban. It may be the close of this episode of the Finn Family Mommintroll, or, despite their experiences on an island far far in the ocean, it may not.In this darker book, Pappa uproots his immediate family---Moominmamma, Moomintroll (now an older teenager) and Little My----to a remote island that may (or may not) be actually charted. Feeling under-appreciated and at loose-ends, aware of the shadowed currents in his family, Moominpappa decides only a completely fresh start will set things right. So he hoists sail in The Adventure, does locate an island with an abandoned lighthouse, and in the hour of their arrival, finds he cannot locate the key, and that the reality is far, far from his wistful and self-glorifying imagination.Throughout the story, each family member deals with the difficult situations in their own characteristic ways. Moominpappa abandons practical needs for self-glorifying grandiose purposes until reality finally sinks in, leaving him more appreciative of what he is and has. Poor Moominmanna struggles gallantly to make a loving home, overcome an almost psychosis-inducing home-sickness, and learns she can adapt & cope and find a "home" on the Island. Moomintroll falls in love with two gorgeous magical blondes---true sea horses---and so on and on and on in their island adventures.Throughout, the enormous strength & anger of the sea pervades the story, as does the Groke, who, following the Moomins hopeful yet dark emotions, is herself yearning for light & recognition and follows them even to their island. As Horace noted, we can change our skies, not ourselves.This sounds dismal yet Tove Janesson brings freshness to the story and her story of hope of light out of darkness is constant & sustaining. Young children may hear an adventure story, giggling at Little My's swift & accurate comments; older readers may see a coming of age tale, and still older readers, an amazingly insightful, wise, non-preaching story of how human relationships can get through storms.Tove Jannneson's Moomin tales are largely autobiographical. He own father was very like Moominpappa; her mother suffered the pain & stresses of Moominmamma including finding escape in her paintings of her home, and yes, for quite a while, they lived on a remote ocean island as her father tried to find himself and exercise a lost control & leadership of a family. Tove herself did find light from darkness, living for years with her life partner (Tootikky in the stories) on a remote island not too far from her parents.A beautiful, wise, and imaginative tale from life---and from the transformative imagination of a great writer & artist. Wish I could have known her!

  • By Marc Ruby™ on September 7, 2001

    Recently I had a conversation about books which affected us as children. I had the idea of returning to many of them to see if they still had value to an adult. My co-conspirator was European, and couldn't say enough about Tove Jansson, who, for many years, wrote the Moomin series. These are charming tales about a curious family of creatures. They entertain and teach at a deeper level than the cautionary tales that were often part of our experience as American children. Intrigued, I found a couple of volumes and set about reading them. The first of these is "Moominpappa at Sea."The Moomin family is led by Moominpappa and Moominmamma. Following up behind are Moomintroll, the boy of the tale, and youngest is Little My, whose personality is best described as a bit thorny and imperturbable. The story starts with the Moomins living in a pleasant house near the Gulf of Finland. One is gradually drawn into the cadences of their conversation and little events that make up their lives. In addition, we meet the Groke, who is attracted to lamplight and freezes the ground where she stands. No sooner are we settled when, coming to the decision almost whimsically, the family determines to move to a small island across the sea where they will run a lighthouse. They load up their boat and sail off, with the Groke not far behind them.The island has a gigantic lighthouse at one end, and its only inhabitant, a fisherman at the other. In short order Moominpappa is building furniture and trying to start up the lighthouse lamp, while Moominmamma works at making their new home livable. Moomintroll wanders the island investigating, finding a perfect place to hide, mermaids, and, eventually, the Groke, who will only stand and stare at the lamp he holds. Eventually Moominpappa realizes he doesn't understand how to start the lamp and, goes on to try other enthusiasms. Moominmamma struggles with trying to feel at home. Moomintroll finds himself entranced by the seahorses and perplexed by the Groke. Of course, Little My observes and remarks on everyone's activity. There is a general sense of discomfort, and the island, as time goes on, seems to become increasingly dark and hostile.How the Moomins deal with this strange island, the Groke, and the other mysteries about them is by virtue of a nature which is both natural and miraculous. They do not work magic, but they themselves are the stuff of magic. The story is about how each of them finds themselves, and as they do, the world about them changes as well. In the course of time, the lighthouse turns and the Groke becomes warm. All this happens by subtle degrees. There is an almost Zen-like quality to the pace of the book, which is told in a narrative style that begs to be read aloud. This is not a book for one who wants everything laid out crystal clear. Rather it speaks to those who want to be engaged, mystified, and, finally, enchanted.

  • By A customer on August 25, 1999

    All the Moomin books are wonderful, and this one is certainly no exception. With a minimum of characters and an isolated setting, we are treated to a tale of subtle, mysterious, and introspective wonders. Deftly handled (I see so more the older I get) are the quite strength of Moominmamma, the frustrated ambitions of Moominpappa, the wistful sensitivity of Moomintroll, and the enviable independence of Little My. The early autumn atmosphere of deep pools, hidden thickets, lighthouse and storm are magical. First rate stuff.

  • By A customer on April 23, 2001

    When I was seven, already a voracious reader, my father would bring home a book for me each time he returned from business trips.After devouring all the Nancy Drew, Paddington the Bear and Black Stallion books from the airport bookstore, My father brought home this strange little story, and began my lifelong yearning for moominland. I still have all the original copies of each book, well loved and tattered. Tove Jansson's wistful and sometimes dark storytelling and magical, yet all too human characters are reason enough to read, but the charming illustrations are the icing on the cake. The moomin series taught me at a very early age that people (and creatures) are not always happy and perfect, yet they love and coexist with their family and friends. This has always been my favorite of the series, and as an eight year old, convinced the librarian of my elementary school to acquire it and urge other kids to read it. You need to visit Moominpappa's island. Then visit it again.


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