________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number . . . .Date, Year


Moominmamma’s Maid.

Tove Jansson.
Montreal, PQ: Enfant/Drawn & Quarterly, 2015.
56 pp., trade pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-77046-216-8.

Subject Heading:
Graphic novels.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4


internal artThe Moomin Family books were written and illustrated over a 25-year period by Finnish author Tove Jansson who put herself on the map with English and Swedish translations of the series. The books are about a playful family of hippo-like creatures who want to enjoy life by revelling in love and imagination. As novels, they were a staple of public library collections in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. In 1956, the British paper The Evening News picked up a comic strip series of the family’s adventures and made them a sensation. Montreal-based independent comics distributor Drawn & Quarterly has now issued those under its Enfant imprint.

internal art     In the story here, the Moomins are being chided by a new neighbour, Mrs. Fillyjonk (who looks like a weasel or ermine) for not being serious, or, certainly, tidy enough. She suggests that their home life would be much improved if they hired a maid:

Mrs. F – ‘A nursery must NOT collect dust.’

Mrs. M – ‘Oh my, but this looks dull.’

Mrs. F – ‘Not one weed in the garden, as Mrs. Moomin can see.’

Mrs. M – ‘I see.’

Mrs. F – ‘About a maid, do think it over! It is one’s duty to one’s family!’

Mrs. M [walking away] – ‘Mrs. Fillyjonk’s house is exemplary, symmetrical, spotless…whereas mine…But I LIKE my own way of doing it. My family is happier than hers!

[returning to Mrs. F’s window] ‘There’s some extra dust for you to dust. Why don’t you live in a plastic bag yourself, madam?’

     The pressure mounts, and the Moomins finally relent and hire Misabel, a frightened little girl who arrives with her canine companion, Pimple. Both of them are afraid of loud noises and of being scolded (which Moomins would never do!).

Misabel – ‘You think everything is fun. You don’t know that life is duty and privation…and full of danger. [falls, breaking a clay pot.] Of course, you will deduct this from my wages!’

Mrs. M – ‘Dear Misabel, on the contrary. WE love things falling and breaking, and besides the floor was quite clean.’

Misabel – ‘Even if YOU don’t care if I break your things, I do!’

Mrs. M – ‘But we always leave the dishes stacked till it rains…which it hasn’t for ages.’

Misabel – ‘I can see that.’

Mrs. M [to self] – ‘Why does she always give me such a bad conscience?’

     Meanwhile, a detective is investigating the mysterious disappearance of Mrs. Fillyjonk and comes around to question the Moomin family, thereby increasing Misabel’s anxiety.

     The somewhat convoluted story has a good deal of humour along with a happy ending, including reunions and a coming to an understanding of differences. The Moomins and their world are a bit retro, a lot quirky and may seem odd to young readers used to more jazzy and contemporary takes on the graphic novel. As well, some of the vocabulary is more sophisticated than what you find in most texts aimed at a primary level. But as stories about feelings and how our actions are perceived by others, they succeed admirably and the books are a comfortable size (8’’ by 6’’) for the strip format.


Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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