Tove Jansson, Moominland Midwinter (Sunburst, 1992)

"There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that's a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don't fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything's quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep — then they appear."

— Too-Ticky in Moominland Midwinter

In Moominland Midwinter, Moomintroll is separated from most of his loving family and friends by the simple accident of waking up in the middle of hibernation time. His only companion from the "real world," as he insists on calling summertime, is Little My. She embraces the world of winter with the adventurous pragmatism that makes her one of Tove Jansson's most delightful characters, "borrowing" freely from the Moomin house in order to have more fun; a silver tray turns into a sled for the tiny girl, with Moomintroll's sun tent attached for a sail. Meanwhile, Moomintroll is stomping around, miserably remembering warm summer days and hating winter more and more every day. He even makes up songs about how much he hates this dark, cold season, and bellows them out at the top of his lungs, hoping to frighten winter away.

Moomintroll has to deal with problems bereft of the parental support and praise he is used to; while Too-Ticky, a carefree philosopher who lives in the Moomin's bathing-house during winter, serves as a wise adult figure, she's not particularly supportive. Moomintroll grows considerably through his experiences, understanding at last that sometimes it's best "if things aren't so easy."

Little My, of course, serves as the light note in the book. Rushing headlong into new experiences, living for the moment and loving every second, she keeps the book skipping when Moomintroll is dragging along, resisting every step. Moomintroll and Little My are perfect foils for each other — Little My teaching Moomintroll to loosen up and enjoy the moment, and Moomintroll trying to teach Little My about responsibility and compassion. (He never really does succeed.)

This book is a marvelous new look at a time of year when many of us are huddling inside, trying to stay warm, and a good reminder during a hot summer of what to look forward to in a few short months.

[Leona Wisoker]