The following is a guest post by Taru Rauha Spiegel, reference specialist in the Library of Congress European Division.
August 9th marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tove Jansson, one of the world’s best-known children’s authors. Although Jansson does not have the same following in the United States as she does in Europe and Asia, she is becoming better known here–she even has a current exhibit at the Minneapolis American Swedish Institute. One of her local fans is the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington. Answering a 2007 Newsweek question about favorite books for children, he said, “Frankly my favorite is The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My, by Tove Jansson. We discovered it when we were in Finland . . . it’s just an awful lot of fun.”
Jansson not only wrote books for children and adults, but she was also a serious painter with an altar piece and murals to her credit. Early in her career she was an anti-totalitarian cartoonist and book illustrator. However, she is best remembered for her Moomin books and cartoons and the subsequent multi-generational “Moomin boom.” Her Moomin cartoons appeared 1953 in the London Evening News. Tove worked on the first twenty cartoon stories from 1953 to 1959, after which her brother Lars took over until 1975. The first Moomin comic strips were actually published in October 1947 in the left-wing Finnish paper Ny Tid. Ironically, the series ended in the following year as readers criticized the Moominpappa character for his bourgeois sympathies! Finn Family Moomintroll (Trollkarlens hatt), published in 1948, made Jansson famous outside Northern Europe.
The Library of Congress has good representative holdings on Jansson’s works, in a number of languages. Translated into more than 40 languages, Jansson’s books appeal with their superbly crafted text and artwork. She is the recipient of many prizes and honors, including the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen medal in 1966. Tove Jansson died in 2001, at the age of 86.