There could not be a more apt choice for a summer reading series than Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book – you may already know Tove as the creator of the Moomins. The Summer Book is one of Tove’s lesser known works, but arguably one of her finest – the Guardian describes it as “the perfection of a small quiet read” and another excellent author, Philip Pullman, reflects on Tove and her book as follows: “Jansson was a genius, a woman of profound wisdom and great artistry, and this is a book to treasure.”
The Summer Book is the tale of a grandmother in her 80’s and her young granddaughter Sophia (six at the start of the book), who spend the summers on the family’s small island on the southern coast of Finland. Tove describes the nature in wonderful detail and also tells you how to treat it: you will learn not to step on moss more than twice and find out the usefulness of driftwood. You will also read about the Finnish archipelago life and understand why it is better to hang the key to your island house by the door for passers-by to use instead of putting up a ‘Private!’ sign.
The Grandmother is not your traditional granny, she is (more than) a bit rebellious and very wise: “life is hard enough without being punished for it afterwards,” she says when Sophia claims that the Devil exists, and continues: “I can not start believing in the Devil at my age. You can believe what you like, but you must learn to be tolerant.”
Sophia is an inquisitive, adventurous and sometimes head-strong girl who learns about herself, other people and life in general: what it feels like to be afraid, to lose someone and how (not) to get along with others.
Throughout the book, Grandmother and Sophia learn to understand, respect and support each other. Grandmother allows Sophia to do things her father has forbidden, while keeping a close eye on her granddaughter’s escapades when she swims out to sea and climbs the ravine. “Every human being has to make his own mistakes” is Grandmother’s philosophy.
The book has no pictures, but the chapters are short, so it is a light read, even for a younger confident reader. However to fully appreciate the deep wisdom, the underlying philosophical thoughts and wittiness of the book I would recommend this book for readers from 12 years to adulthood. If you get it for your son or daughter, do read it yourself as well!
Check out the Read Around the World Summer Reading Series pinterest board for more excellent suggestions for books to read this summer!