Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words

The subject of Boel Westin's Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words is a towering figure in 20th-century children's literature, best known for her enormously popular children's series featuring the hippoesque creatures known as Moomins and the other characters who populate their home in Moominvalley.

Westin's detailed biography, translated from the Swedish by Silvester Mazzarella, provides an intimate portrait of Jansson's life, and traces the development of her talent for drawing, illustration, and painting, encouraged by her unconventional artistic family in the decades prior to World War II. The book exactingly depicts her journey, including her technical detail and her thoughts on art, her evolving confidence as an artist, and the development of her singular style in various media as she studied in her native Finland, Stockholm, and Paris--and as she traveled across Italy, even as the storm clouds of World War II gathered.

Westin shares the origin story behind the Moomins, a reaction to the trauma of war: "The story of the family in the valley was a realisation of the idea 'of a happy society and a peaceful world,' a fiction sprung from the dreams of the war years and a longing for something else." But the standout elements of this impressive biography come in the form of Jansson's own sketches, paintings, journals, notes, and letters, as well as photos showing her at work. Seeing Jansson's process throughout the pages, readers gain an enhanced understanding of and appreciation for this exceptional artist who continues to inspire and delight the world to this day. --Elizabeth DeNoma, executive editor, DeNoma Literary Services, Seattle, Wash.

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