Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

I picked this short read up from the library recently. I liked the title. It is supposed to be almost summer, but in my neck of the woods (Seattle) the seasons can't seem to make up their minds so we go from freezing, raining, wind storms to hot and sunny all within a matter of days. My expectations of this book were not high, I thought maybe it would be boring. As I was only checking it out and not buying the book, I figured that I would take a chance. What a nice surprise. As it says in the introduction, it is almost as though this book is about nothing. However, it is about something, it is about the relationship between a young girl and her grandmother. The girl's mother has died and she and her father and grandmother summer, as they always have, in their cottage on an island off of the Finnish coast. Sadly, I had not heard of this author/illustrator, Tove Jansson, prior to this book. She is quite well known in her own country for her artwork and writing, she died in 2001.

In this book the child and the grandmother have many simple and wonderful adventures together. The father is more a backdrop in this story, he is present usually sitting or working, not interacting. It is the granddaughter and grandmother that are wound in their own secret world. Their adventures include such things going for long walks in the woods, discovering secrets in the attic, and sharing in nature, animal, and people exploits together. Grandmother has some interesting ideas about human behavior, many of which match my own, that I have not heard articulated in a book prior to this. For example, the granddaughter wants to hear about grandmother's long ago exploits as a Girl Scout. Grandmother searchs her mind to try and remember. She does remember that when she wanted to share these exploits with her family, no one was interested and now she just can't remember anymore. I understand that. A newcomer builds a huge house across the water from the family's cottage. Grandmother and granddaughter row out to it and it is padlocked. Grandmother says that they should pick the lock and go inside as no one on the island has ever locked anything before, people with class would never trespass, but to be faced with a padlock and a "no trespassing" sign is like a slap in the face to the common decency of the islanders. Like I said, it is a charming narrative. I will be looking for more by this author soon.


Kristine said...

Tove Janssons world of the "Mummi-trollet" is huge in Norway,(as big as the world of Winnie the Pooh) I have grown up with her stories for children, and some 20 years ago they started making cartoon movies of her books, from her drawings. The interesting thing is that she started making comic strips in black and white, for grownups, with really profound punchlines, to subtle for kids to get. Much later, she started writing/drawing for children, but this is what she is mostly known for.

Moonaroo said...

Thanks for the information Kristine. See, I knew that I was missing out. I really love this woman and want to read more of her work.