I asked. No, they did not know about Moomins. Oh.
We had visitors on Thursday. They were neighbours-across-the-street once. We used to collect their mail, feed their cat and dog, water the plants - and loan the children books to read. My father also gave them simple woodwork lessons. We miss them and, it seems, they miss us.
Come school holidays and they descended for the afternoon. They returned a Paddington Bear book the youngest had borrowed the previous holiday. I handed over a book I had found for the eldest. She is now doing Italian at high school and this was a bilingual picture book I thought might interest all of them. She asked if I had any other books in Italian.
"I'll dig out my Italian copy of Finn Family Moomintroll," I told her.
She looked blank.
"You don't know about the Moomins?"
They had been too young when they left to read the Moomin books on their own and I had given their mother other things to read to them. They had missed out on the Moomins. I felt it was my fault. No child should miss out on the Moomins!
I explained about Moomins, those plump but rather shy creatures who live in the Moomin Valley and hibernate in winter having eaten their fill of pine needles. I told them as much as I could remember about Tove Jansson. She was born into a Swedish speaking family in Finland before WWII. Her parents were artists and she also trained as an artist in Sweden. She wrote the first of her books during WWII. It was a moment of self-indulgence to try and lighten her mood and "The Moomins and the Great Flood" is the least successful of her books. It is also the one I enjoyed the least. It really reflects the world situation at the time, a world where mothers flee with their children because of the dangers they are surrounded by. Finn Family Moomintroll is so very different compared with the Great Flood.
"Finn Family Moomintroll is the one you really should read even if you do not read any others." I told them.
It is, I think, the Jansson book which is the most fun. The other books are slightly different. "Comet in Moominland" is said by some to be about nuclear activity. "Moominsummer Madness" has a little dig at theatre and "The Exploits of Moominpappa" has a dig at those who write memoirs. "Moominland Midwinter" is about the youngest Moomin finding himself in an alien environment - winter. They are all good books but what I love most is the part in Finn Family Moomintroll where the clouds are found in the hat and the young Moomins can play on them. Who has never wanted to play on a cloud?
Moomins live in a magical world - and an essential one.