Although Finnish author Tove Jansson is best known for her Moomin stories — children’s tales about the ghostly hippo-like trolls pictured above — she eventually gave up on her wide-eyed little creatures in order to focus on writing adult novels. But her stories for grown-ups are just as charming and clear-eyed as are her stories for children.
Here’s an excerpt from The Summer Book , a gentle tale about a grandmother and her granddaughter:
In the beginning, the family tried to make the magic forest more terrible than it was. They collected stumps and dry juniper bushes from neighboring islands and rowed them back to the forest. Huge specimens of weathered, whitened beauty were dragged across the island. They splintered and cracked and made broad, empty paths to the places where they were to stand. Grandmother could see that it wasn’t turning out but she said nothing. Afterward, she cleaned the boat and waited until the rest of the family tired of the magic forest. Then she went in by herself. She crawled slowly past the marsh and the ferns and when she got tired she lay down on the ground and looked up through the network of gray lichens and branches. Later, the others asked her where she had been, and she replied that maybe she had slept a little while.
And the picture that accompanies the text:
But of course, it’s not only Jansson’s stories for adults that demonstrate her ability to simply relate deeper psychological truths. The Moomin stories — her comic strips for children may have started off as more traditional adventure stories, but they evolved gradually into deceptively complex narratives that feature parodies of literary form, allusions to nuclear policy, and the difficulties of loneliness and grief.
All this is just to say: Whether books are labeled for children, or for adults, it should not be surprising that both categories offer great pleasure for anyone who can appreciate a good story.