Suitcase packed and passport at the ready? Then we’re off, on the first stage of our European tour – and this week’s destination as part of Reading Round Europe is Finland!
Finland’s most famous children’s author has to be Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins. Interestingly, Jansson wrote in Swedish rather than Finnish – about 5-6% of the population of Finland have Swedish as their mother tongue. Her first Moomin book was published just over 65 years ago, but today Moomins are probably more popular than they’ve ever been.
Given this background, it’s not surprising that the two biggest kidlit destinations in Finland are both Moomin related.
The Moominvalley of the Tampere Art Museum is a museum devoted to original works by writer and artist Tove Jansson and can be found in the centre of the city of Tampere.
The atmospheric Moominvalley art museum hosts a constant exhibition for a part of the collection of c. 2,000 works donated to the City of Tampere and the Tampere Art Museum in 1986 by Tove Jansson (1914-2001), Tuulikki Pietilä (1917-2009, graphic artist and Tove Jansson’s partner) and Pentti Eistola (a frequent collaborator with Jansson and Pietilä on Moomin projects).
In addition to the permanent exhibition, there is currently a special exhibition, Dancing Moominvalley, focussing on movement and dance in the Moomin art of Tove Jansson, who apparently loved to dance herself. Alongside the exhibition dance company Tanssiteatteri MD is currently performing a contemporary dance piece also titled Dancing Moominvalley – you can see images on the Dancing Moominvalley blog.
If you can’t make it to Finland, you could instead visit Bury Art Gallery, Manchester (UK) which is currently hosting a temporary exhibition of Tove Jansson’s illustrations on loan from Tampere Art Gallery.
To celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Moomins (which was in 2010) Bury Art Gallery recreated the feeling of visiting the Moomin Valley itself. One of the galleries has been transformed into an enchanted space, drawing inspiration from The Moomins and the Great Flood. This exhibition is open until January 15th so there’s just time to get there and see some Jansson originals for yourself. For full details click here for the exhibition leaflet (in pdf).
Returning to Finland, and continuing the Moomin theme (though there is so much more to Finnish children’s literature than the Moomins!), you’ll want to visit Moominworld – a theme park for children and families based on – you’ve guessed it – Tove Jansson’s Moomins.
Moominworld is located on the southwest coast of Finland on a small island a couple of hours’ drive from Helsinki
Both Moominvalley and Moomin World have specialist Moomin shops, which I believe ship worldwide but come back tomorrow to try your luck at winning some beautiful Moomin items here at Playing by the book!
One last place to visit is the Finnish Institute for Children’s Literature (Lastenkirjainstituutti in Finnish) in the city of Tampere which houses works from the artistic estate of Finland’s much loved children’s writer and illustrator, Camilla Mickwitz, as well as original works by illustrators Maija Karma, Riikka Juvonen, Sari Airola, Markus Majaluoma, Hannu Taina and Riitta Uusitalo. The institute organizes exhibitions of books and illustrations on the premises as well lending out exhibitions of this kind.