Here’s a picture book that arrived on shelves in April but was created in 1970 and is publishing for the first time in North America. The Dangerous Journey was the last picture book completed by the legendary Finnish author-illustrator Tove Jansson. This new edition, published by Drawn & Quarterly, was translated by Sophie Hannah.
Written in rhyme, readers meet Susanna, sitting outside in the grass and suffering from a bad case of ennui. Even her cat (Mr. Paws) is too lazy, peaceful, and serene for her mood. “I’m wild and crazy,” we read, “and I’m sick of all this green.” Susanna is in the mood for “danger, disaster, scandal” yet has no idea how to go about it. Suddenly, though, she puts on a pair of glasses she finds near her, and the world turns: Her cat is a “spitting frizz of rage, rotating in the sky,” and the forest she knows has disappeared with a dark mangrove swamp in its place. Even the sea is gone, Susanna eventually realizing her mind has moved the sea. “All this is down to me,” she comes to understand.
She meets a handful of characters — a Hemulen, Sniff, Sorry-Oo, Thingummy, and Bob (characters from Jansson’s Moominvalleyseries) — and they all travel through Moominvalley. There’s an eerie volcano, pounding snow (in summer, no less), “the looming shadow of the GROKE,” sinister moments, and more: Susanna’s wish for an adventure has come true.
Jansson’s watercolors feature surreal landscapes and are awash in color and texture. It’s a beautiful thing to see this book make it to American shelves.