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TOVE JANSSON


SCULPTOR’S DAUGHTER A Childhood Memoir


page 89 of Finn Family Moomintroll seems like the sort of thing anyone could do, until you try and imitate it. The sheer ingenuity of the way she represents rain on water – a few separate lines each curving down to end in its own little oval – has never been surpassed.


The simplicity of the means could express a great complexity of texture and light. There’s a wonderful full-page picture in The Exploits of Moominpappa (p.132) showing the amphibious submarine invented by Momminpappa’s great friend Hodgkins plunging beneath the waves under a dark sky. The foaming wave-tops are brilliant white, and so is the water all around the Amphibian, lit up by the lights blazing out of each porthole. Inside the vessel we can see the tiny silhouettes of five characters, each precisely recognisable, and escorting the craft under the water are a dozen fishes each with a differently-shaped electric light on its head, and a couple of friendly mermaids each carrying what looks like a bedside lamp, and a whale with a pair of bracketed candelabra like those you might see on an old-fashioned piano. The picture is so bright you almost have to shade your eyes, and yet all it’s made of are black lines and white paper.


The two books about her have different origins and different intentions. Westin’s biography is a full, well-documented, possibly over-detailed work. All the facts are there, and plenty of pictures. Sculptor’s Daughter is a marvel and a classic. Jansson responded to the world with a freshness and originality that have hardly ever been matched in the field of children’s books, and she could convey all the excitement of wonder as well as the reassurance of comfort


and familial love – and in her final Moomin books, such as Moominvalley in November, evoke a mood of apprehension, loss, and mystery. She should have had the Nobel Prize. n


The Books


Tove Jansson Sculptor’s Daughter A Childhood Memoir translated by Kingsley Hart, introduction by Ali Smith, Sort Of Books, 978-1908745330, £9.99.


Boel Westin Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words The authorised biography, translated by Silvester Mazzarella, Sort Of Books, 978-1908745453, £25.


Finn Family Moomintroll, Tove Jansson, Puffin, 978-0140301502, £6.99 pbk.


The Exploits of Moominpappa, Tove Jansson, Puffin, 978-0141328645, £12.99 hbk.


Moominvalley in November, Tove Jansson, Puffin, 978-0140307153, £6.99 pbk.


Philip Pullman’s latest book, Grimm Tales for Young and Old, is published by Penguin Classics, 978-0141442228, £8.99 pbk.


Books for Keeps No.206 May 2014 7


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