Tove Jannson wrote two picture-books-for-moominloving-tots: Vem ska trosta knyttet? (1960) and Hur gick det sen? Boken om Mymlan, Mumintrollet och lilla My (1952). When I discovered they’d been republished (as Who Will Comfort Toffle? and The Book of Moomin, Mymble and Little My) , I got very excited (and ran out and bought em) (actually they came out in 2003 so my actually running wz a bit needless). Then I got very picky and territorial.

See they’ve been “rewritten”, and a bit of the power of such books is of course unchanging ritual: THEY NEVER CHANGE howEVER OFTEN YOU READ THEM. As you will recall when v.small you wz being read to (by a different relative than usual, say) and they GOT SOMETHING WRONG!!

Anyway the new versions are handsomely turned out, and the small-print details at the back suggest care and thought went into the reworking: a a literal translation by Silvester Mazzarella turned into verse by Sophie Hannah (“one of Britain’s best-selling poets” acc.the jacket quote; “a real star” acc.the Daily Telegraph).

But yeah, I got picky. First, the verse seemed to demand a fairly monotonous singsong, diDUMdiDUMdiDUMdiDUM. Second, if you gave into this, you find yrself having to say names with completely the wrong emphasis: “Beyond the forest, bathed in light/the air tastes fresh. The grass glows bright/The sun shines down on fields of flowers/MooMINtroll’s walked for hours and hours…” and “HeMULen, with a vacuum hose/had got some house dust up his nose/Spring cleaning (though it wasn’t Spring)/was Hemulen’s most favourite thing.” I didn’t like having to say MymBULL for Mymble, let alone T’FULL for Toffle.

What turned me round comes on the facing page to the vacuum hose lines: “She cut the tube and pulled it back/Mymble and Moonmintroll were black/with dust from head to toe. My laughed/”Blimey, the two of you look daft!’ OK, first, no one can be meant to read any way but “BLImey!’, and second: Little My gets to say “BLIMEY!”

In other words, the basic rhythm is presumably meant to be much freer, and you stress to taste. And once I realised this, I got over my peeve and started to like it: the old version at this point had a ghastly couplet along the lines of “The vacuum tube rose high’r and high’r/the hemulen was white with ire” – and I’m fairly sure either My or Mymble cursed that *other* whiskered bad-poetry standby “Fie!” at some point. Which suggests the earlier version was probably rubbish.

[innovation note: Hur gick det sen? Boken om Mymlan, Mumintrollet och lilla My – with its holes cut in the pages to barrel us through to the next bit of the story – predates B.S Johnson‘s Albert Angelo by 11 years. Hur gick det sen? means “Guess what happened next?” and Hannah makes a neat job of varying this every time (“Now guess what happens: YOU decide” – how would i not love this proposal?)]

CONCLUSION: if yr reading it to small someone else, do a bit of practice first – there are a few tongue-twistery passages