In the “Moomins” creator Tove Jansson’s THE DANGEROUS JOURNEY (Drawn & Quarterly, 28 pp., $16.95; ages 4 to 10), first published in 1977 but reissued in an English translation by Sophie Hannah, a little girl, Susanna, wakes up “bored and confused and cross.” She tells off her cat, curses the beautiful countryside, and prays for “danger, disaster, scandal.” Fate takes her up on that. She finds a pair of glasses that reveal the nightmare under the surface of things. Her lazy cat becomes a “spitting frizz of rage.” Forests turn to “wet slime.” Little Susanna morphs into a “wildcat.”
Her adventure takes her through a series of encounters with Hobbit-like creatures with jaw-breaker names like Hemulen and Thingummy. They lead her through earthquakes and bat caves, raging seas and icescapes, and in the end, unlike 99 percent of children’s books, we are left without the reassurance that all is right in the end. Little Susanna may or may not make it home alive. Actions have consequences. Normal is perhaps a thing of the past.