Far too few American parents know the brilliance of Tove Jansson and her massively successful cartoon world, the Moomins. Jansson was a Finnish artist who first created these calm and quirky characters in the 1940s. But the Moomin-mania is far from over– in fact, they’re more popular now than ever. The Moomins loom largest in Finland, but Japan’s a close second (Moomin merch is everywhere. There’s even a Moomin World theme park.) It’s only a matter of time before the Moomins take over the US, too.
So who are the Moomins, and why should you care? The Moomins (Moominmama, Moominpapa, Moomintroll, and his girlfriend Snorkmaiden) live together in Moominvalley. They’re technically trolls, though they look more like a Winnie the Pooh/hippo hybrid with their velvety soft fur and round snouts. The books are 30% adventure, 30% cozy domestic life, 20% philosophical gems, 20% lovely illustrations, or 100% amazing. For most readers, the Moomins quickly become an addiction. Much like the other great authors of children’s lit, Jansson’s work dazzles adults just as much (if not more) than it does kids. And, to be clear, most of the Moomin books on this list are for kids 6 and up. We’ve listed three Moomin picture books at the bottom for kids younger than that. The best way to think of the main Moomin books is not-quite-chapter books, but more-text heavy than your standard picture book.
So if you’re ready, here are all nine Moomin books and the order you should read them in– because the books in the order Jannson wrote them are kind of strange. Some characters disappear from book to book, reappearing later with no explanation. Timelines are super vague. It’s better if you drop right into the middle of the Moomins and work your way out in both directions. In other words, the best way to read the Moomin books is out of order. Here’s our recommended best way to dive in.
1. Moominsummer Madness (Book #5)
A volcano explodes, releasing a big flood that sweeps away the Moomins’ house. But lo and behold, another one comes floating by...it just happens to be a theater house. This is a good Moomin book that helps cope with the unexpected disasters and bouts of isolation life throws your way, so obviously we’re keeping it at the top of our list.
2. Finn Family Moomintroll (Book #3)
Moomintroll and his friends find a mysterious black hat on the top of a mountain, which happens to belong to a Hobgoblin, a powerful wizard. When they take it, chaos ensues throughout Moominvalley. It’s a great book to really get to know the Moomins– if you don’t like this one, you probably won’t like the rest of the series. And we can't be friends anymore.
3. Tales from Moominvalley (Book #7)
Definitely read this one after you read a few other Moomin books, as it helps to be familiar with them. This is different from the rest of the series in that it tells nine short stories instead of one longer one. Tales from Moominvalley brings in some of the Moomin characters we know and love but also introduces plenty of newbies, like TeetyWoo and Toffle. These shorter stories are especially wonderful for very young kids, they offer big messages around friendship, lying, and being yourself in pint-sized packages.
4. Moominland Midwinter (Book #6)
The Moomins usually hibernate all winter long– but one winter morning, Moominpapa wakes up! He decides he wants to see what winter and snow are all about. The world is not as friendly in the cold as he imagined it to be, but he meets some new friends who help him get by.
5. Moominvalley in November (Book #9)
Who but Jansson could write an entire book without the main characters ever appearing in it?! The Moomins’ friends come knocking at their door one day, but the Moomins are nowhere to be found. The friends stay anyways, raid their pantry, tuck into their beds, and shut in for the winter in the Moomin’s home, searching for purpose. This is probably the heaviest of the Moomin books, but certainly beautiful. Save it for when you want to feel absolutely entrenched with ennui.
6. Comet in Moominland (Book #2)
A giant comet is headed for Moominland, and it's up to Moomintroll to journey to the far-away Lonely Mountains to get advice on what to do from some wise professors. We don’t get to explore as many characters in this book as in Jansson’s others, as the focus is really on Moomintroll and his quest, but it's delightful nonetheless.
7. The Moomins and the Great Flood (Book #1)
This is Jansson’s first Moomin book, but we think it works better when read as a prequel than to start the series here. Moominmama and Moomintroll search for dear Moominpapa, who they worry drowned in the flood. Eventually, they find their way to Mooninvalley, and the rest is Moominhistory. The Moomins are a little thinner here than in later works, and their personalities a little less developed, but it's fun to read where the Moomins really started.
8. Moominpapa at Sea (Book #8)
Turn the melancholy all the way up to 11 with this one: the Moomins move to a remote island to live alone in a lighthouse because Moominpapa is going through a midlife crisis. There’s pipe-smoking, whisky, and plenty of introspection...but they’re still pretty darn cute.
9. The Memoirs of Moominpapa (Book #4)
Save this one until the end of your Moomin-readings– it fills in some backstory from previous books, like how Moominpapa and Moominmama first met. The regular Moominvalley cast isn't heavily featured, and it has more mature themes and pointed philosophical overtones than the other books. Overall, this one’s a bit of a snooze– though some readers claim it’s their absolute favorite, so read it anyway just in case.
Looking for Moomin books for kids younger than 6-years-old? There’s even more Moomin to moon over. Here are three Moomin picture books: Moomin and the Birthday Button, The Book About Moomin, Mymble, and Little My, and Who Will Comfort Toffle? There are also a ton of Moomin comics, but we’ll let you decide if those are right for you after you get through all of these other books.