In addition to the Moomin novels I’ve been rereading, Tove Jansson also wrote and illustrated three charming picture books for younger readers that are part of the Moomin series. They were unknown to me when I was young, but have been reprinted in America in this century, and I have added them to my library. This is the second, and it tells of a sad, lonely young Toffle who is afraid of all the other creatures who live around him, including Hemulens, Fillyjonks, even Moomin friends Mymble and My, but especially the truly frightening Groke, whose presence freezes the very ground it walks on. This book follows Toffle as he searches for a friend, while trying to avoid all the boisterous activity around him. Even solitary Snufkin, playing his flute in a field of flowers, is too scary for Toffle to approach. At last he arrives at the seashore, and he finds a note in a bottle from a young female Miffle, who is also looking for a friend, and asks for help. Toffle decides he must finally be brave and seek out Miffle. He sets out on the wide ocean in his suitcase to look for her.
If you have only seen Tove Jansson’s black and white illustrations for the Moomin novels or even her comic strips, the gloriously bright and charming large illustrations for these picture books will give you new insight into her artistic talent. The story is equally charming, and is ideal to read to a young person, if you know one. The translation is by poet Sophie Hannah, and the lettering (in the style of Tove) is by Peter Blegvad.