The next to last of the longer Moomin novels for young readers published in 1965 takes the family away from Moomin Valley for most of the book. Moominpappa has been feeling sad and out of sorts and finally realizes it’s because his life is too planned and too easy. He decides they must all go out to sea on a new adventure, in search of a small island with a lighthouse that somehow Moominpappa feels is calling to him. Everyone is excited by the idea and they are soon underway, Moominmamma, Moomintroll, and their friend Little My, who is fearless and wants to be in on any adventure. Unknown to them they are followed by The Groke, a frightening creature who freezes the very ground and water it walks on.
Somehow they find the island with the lighthouse, which is not working. The island is uninhabited except for an old fisherman who has built a shack at the far end away from the lighthouse, and who doesn’t seem to want to talk to them. The Moomins move into the lighthouse, and Moominpappa tries to get the light going, but can’t manage it, so he settles for trying to understand the ways of the sea. Moominmamma misses her home and garden, and spends time painting the inside of the living space near the top of the lighthouse with pictures of home that become so real to her she almost forgets where she really is. Moomintroll sees some wild, magical sea horses one night frolicking on the beach, and becomes obsessed with one of them. When he does get to speak to her, she mocks and taunts him. Meanwhile, The Groke has also arrived on the shore of the island, and Moomintroll is soon involved in a risky and dangerous relationship with that creature, too. What will happen when a big storm hits the island?
Tove Jansson’s Moomins are charming, and if anything the books get better and better as they go along. This one is excellent and highly recommended. One good thing about it is the small cast, giving space for lots of character development, and you don’t have to have read the other books to understand and enjoy it.