It probably says something about the mature attitude I bring to the business of parenting that my favourite fictional mother is in a children’s book, but there you go. The best guide to the business of being a mum that I’ve ever read is Tove Jansson’s Moomin series, and in my regular moments of floundering under my responsibilities to the small people I’ve generated, I’ve often resorted to pretending that I’m Moominmamma.
There’s a view that the fantastical is a failing in children’s literature. In the 2009 BBC4 series Picture Book, Shirley Hughes (author and illustrator of the finely observed Alfie books) explained her scrupulous realism like this: small children have so much work to do simply coming to terms with what is that it’s unfair to tell them stories about things that aren’t. Fairy stories and supernatural characters are a distraction at best, at worst a sort of dishonesty that obscures the child’s view of their own world. Continue reading