Tag: children’s books

Moomin food

19 August 2010 | In the news

Cheers: Moominpappa and Moominmamma on a picnic

A cookbook that introduces Tove Jansson’s famous Moomin family and other characters from the delightful classic stories for children (and adults), with original illustrations and quotations from the Moomin books, has been published in the UK.

Entitled Moomins’ cookbook. An introduction to Finnish cuisine (translated by David Hackston and published by SelfMadeHero), the book was compiled and written by Sami Malila and published in Finnish in 1993 (WSOY).

The Moomins are also currently being celebrated in an exhibition at the Design Shop UK in Edinburgh, entitled ‘And the World Went Mad for Moomins’. The exhibition runs until September 5.

Translations of books by Tove Jansson (1914–2001) have been published in more than 30 languages.

The cookbook offers recipes of healthy porridges and fish dishes, mushrooms and fresh berries, as well as treats like one of the Moomins’ favourites, pancakes (often cooked in the oven) with jam and whipped cream.

And as this is a cookbook for the whole family, Moominpappa’s grog contains no alcohol – but it’s no secret he enjoys a drop of good whisky (see the picture) every now and then, and a good cigar.

Minä, Mauri Kunnas [I, Mauri Kunnas]

4 March 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Minä, Mauri Kunnas
[I, Mauri Kunnas]
Muistiin merkitsi [As told to] Lotta Sonninen
Helsinki: Otava, 2009. 182 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-1-23186-8
€ 40, hardback

Mauri Kunnas (born 1950) is a cartoonist and graphic artist. His children’s books have been translated into 28 languages; the translations have sold approximately 2,5 million copies. His anthropomorphic canine characters from Koiramäki, Doghill, are well known for their adventures in historical milieus; researching these settings is one of Kunnas’ passions. His reinterpretations of Finnish literary classics are also popular: The Canine Kalevala and Seven Dog Brothers offer affectionately humorous homages to the Kalevala, the Finnish folk epic, and the classic novel by Aleksis Kivi. Joulupukki (1981), published in English as Santa Claus, is arguably the world’s best-known Finnish children’s book. In this book, Kunnas gives a lively account of his childhood and youth, as well as his influences and the different phases of his career as an illustrator. The text is complemented by photos from Kunnas’ family album and his own archives, from adventure stories he illustrated as a boy to a pair of hippy bell-bottomed jeans adorned with doodles.

Tomi Kontio: Viidakon kutsu [The call of the jungle]

12 February 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Viidakon kutsu
[The call of the jungle]
Helsinki: Tammi, 2009, 240 p.
ISBN 978-951-31-5042-6
16.20 €, hardback

Poet and author Tomi Kontio’s book for young teenagers is a take-off of the boys’ adventure story and fantasy novel, a genre he has used in the past. But Kontio leads 12-year-old Alma and Alpo into the jungle… of eastern Finland – the backwoods of Kainuu, to be precise. There they meet the Vimbas, a tribe living in harmony with nature, who teach them many important lessons. Kontio succeeds in combining his two narrative talents: he doesn’t underestimate the value of lively and lyrical language to his target audience, and he entertains his readers with fabulations that mix the rational and the absurd into a cohesive whole. Viidakon kutsu is a portrait of a world that is considerably brighter than in Kontio’s previous books for young readers.

Jukka Laajarinne: Ruoalla ei saa leikkiä [Don’t play with your food]

5 February 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Ruoalla ei saa leikkiä
[Don’t play with your food]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Martti Ruokonen
Helsinki: WSOY, 2009. 60 p.
ISBN 978-951-0-35040-9
18.20 €, hardback

Jukka Laajarinne (born 1970) exercises his obsession with challenging authority again, stretching the boundaries of traditional children’s literature. It seems that becoming a father has made him wonder at the dominant role of food in everyday life: this book deals broadly with food, eating, and food culture. The impetus for the stories might be an ordinary figure of speech or adage that is taken apart and played with. For instance, King Midas, familiar from Greek mythology, who turned everything to gold with his touch, is transformed in Laajarinne’s retelling into a sticky-fingered kid who makes a mess of everything around him. Martti Ruokonen’s graphic illustrations are stark and even coarse in places, their colour choices and rounded forms reminiscent of visual images made for the first books for babies.

Maria Vuorio: Kiitollinen sammakko [The grateful frog]

5 February 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kiitollinen sammakko

Kiitollinen sammakko ja muita satuja järviseudulta
[The grateful frog and other stories from the lake country]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Virpi Penna
Helsinki: Tammi, 2009. 111 p.
ISBN 978-951-31-5017-4
18.20 €, hardback

There is no need to categorise Maria Vuorio’s original yet tradition-conscious prose and poetry as being for readers of a particular age. A father and son, Aatos and Justus, are spending their vacation at a summer cabin. Justus rescues a frog from a well, setting in motion a chain of events that leads the boy to see the world through different eyes. The frog happens to be the king of the frogs, and wishes to reward Justus for his good deed. The stories are wonderful explorations of humble, reticent animals – a perch, a dragonfly, a spider, a crab, a mole. A bumblebee’s leg in a cast has probably never been described with such devotion before. Today, Finnish children’s relationship with nature is limited to the surroundings of the summer cabin. But Vuorio’s view of the relationship of child with nature is still a romantic one. Dazzled by the moonlight, Justus wonders to himself, ‘Why is there such beauty, if no one ever sees it?’

Who for? On new books for children and young people

29 January 2010 | Articles, Non-fiction

Secrets: an illustration by Aino-Maija Metsola from Minä ja Muro (‘Me and Muro) by Mari Kujanpää

Books have a tough time in their struggle for the souls of the young: more titles for children and young adults than ever before are published in Finland, all of them trying to find their readers. Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen picks out some of the best and most innovative reading from among last year’s titles

Nine-year-old Lauha’s only friend and confidant is her teddy bear Muro, because Lauha is an outsider both at home and at school. The children’s novel Minä ja Muro (‘Muro and me’, Otava), which won the 2009 Finlandia Junior Prize, provoked discussion of whether it was appropriate for children, with its oppressive mood and the lack of any bright side brought into the life of the main character in its resolution. More…

Mari Kujanpää: Minä ja Muro [Muro and me]

28 January 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Minä ja Muro
[Muro and me]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Aino-Maija Metsola
Helsinki: Otava, 2009. 207 p.
ISBN 978-951-1-23418-0
15.10 €, hardback

The heavy themes of this children’s novel, winner of the 2009 Finlandia Junior Prize, have provoked discussion of who its target audience should be. Lauha is a 9-year-old girl who is considered an oddball at school; her classmates claim that she smells bad. Within her own family she’s an outsider. Her little brother’s serious illness has troubled the family for a long time, and even when he gets better her parents don’t know how to listen to Lauha, and their negligence verges on physical violence. But playing with Muro, her teddy bear, eases Lauha’s troubles, and luckily she finds a soul sister in Heta, the new school intern. Mari Kujanpää (born 1976) uses language suitable for a child’s state of mind in a very creative way. Muro ja minä is difficult for a child to read on his/her own, and would work best read aloud and discussed in a group of children or as a book for adult caregivers. The black and white illustrations are by Aino-Maija Metsola (born 1983), whose previous work includes designing fabrics for Marimekko.

Animal instincts

23 December 2009 | Authors, Interviews

Roman Schatz. - Photo: Veikko xxx

Roman Schatz. - Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

Animals exist to make people rich. This wretched and wrong capitalist obsession is gleefully debunked in Roman Schatz’s first children’s book, with illustrator Pertti Jarla’s zany depictions of an animal revolution. Maria Antas interviews the author.

Zoo – eläimellinen tarina (‘The Zoo, a bestial story’, WSOY, 2009) is a children’s book that also appeals to the kind of adults who might love the exploits of John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline in the film Fierce Creatures – this book, like the film, is about attempts to make animals seem more dangerous and attractive to an ever more jaded audience accustomed to the pace of action movies.

Christmas is coming, and a dynamic new Zoo director wants to make an unprofitable zoo into a money spinner. The zoo’s inhabitants, however, refuse to be slaves to the market economy: led by an old Sumatran tiger called Gandhi, the militant mandrill Che, dreaming of revolution, and a bat named Mother Teresa who sees the world upside-down, the animals rise up in a wild, but ultimately non-violent, insurrection. Schatz’s story evokes 20th-century utopians, and the animals’ expressions, as visualised by illustrator Pertti Jarla, awaken the reader’s conscience and our  nearly forgotten ability to laugh at the way the world works. More…

A day at the zoo

23 December 2009 | Children's books, Fiction

Illustration: Pertti Jarla

Extracts from the children’s book Zoo – eläimellinen tarina (‘Zoo – a bestial story’, WSOY, 2009, illustrated by Pertti Jarla)

The place: A zoo, once the property of the city, now privatised and accountable to corporate stockholders

The characters: The animals of the zoo, in particular Gandhi, a Sumatran tiger (false-teeth, poor vision, pacifist), Che, a male mandrill baboon (militant), and Mother Teresa, a hammer-headed bat (elderly); the zookeeper Sihvonen (stands up for the animals, recently fired); the new zoo director (whose main goal is to maximise profits); the shareholders’ committee (awaiting their earnings)

The action: after a demonstration in which all the animals played dead, the animals are staging a revolution to demand that Sihvonen be reinstated


The animals crowded into the foyer. The hallway was full of every kind of creature, with all of their skin, fur and feathers steaming in the warm indoor air. Che stood at the top of the the stairs, looked down at his troops, and gave the order in mime for everybody to be quiet.

‘Reconnaissance?’ he said, his voice subdued.

‘Ready!’ the leaf-tailed geckos announced.

‘Head in!’ Che commanded. More…

Junior Prize

4 December 2009 | In the news


Mari Kujanpää

The Finlandia Junior Prize, for the best book for children and young people, was awarded on 24 November to Mari Kujanpää (born 1976) for her third book for children, Minä ja Muro (‘Me and Muro’, illustrated by Aino-Maija Metsola, Otava). More…

It’s (virtually) Christmas!

28 November 2009 | This 'n' that

Father Christmas / Santa Claus by mauri Kunnas

Father Christmas / Santa Claus by Mauri Kunnas

What to give the man who has everything? In prizewinning children’s author and illustrator Mauri Kunnas’s Twelve Gifts for Santa, Zac, one of Father Christmas’s little helpers, decides to give him twelve good deeds. Doing so is not as easy as it looks, however, and you can follow the twists and turns of the story on the Kidzone Finland advent calendar from Tuesday, 1 December, with one window opening each day until Christmas Eve.

Mauri Kunnas (born 1950) published the first of his popular picture books for children in 1980; entitled Koiramäen talossa (‘Doghill Farm’), it describes – with the accuracy of a treatise on folklore studies – life in a country farmhouse at the end of the 19th century. His hilarious canine characters, in more than forty books, have now found readers in almost thirty languages. More…

Eino Leino Prize to Hannele Huovi

17 April 2009 | In the news

Hannele Huovi. - Photo: Laura Vesa.

Hannele Huovi. - Photo: Laura Vesa

‘Methinks,/ said the sausage dog / who loved eating verse, that / poetry is tastier than bone.’ (From Karvakorvan runopurkki [Furry pooch’s jar of verse])

Hannele Huovi (born 1949) has received the 2009 Eino Leino Prize, worth € 5,200 and funded by the Finnish Book Foundation, for her extensive work as a writer of books for children and young people, of novels, poetry and text books. More…

Hannele Huovi: Karvakorvan runopurkki [Furry pooch’s jar of verse]

4 March 2009 | Mini reviews

Karvakorvan hunajapurkkiKarvakorvan runopurkki
[Furry pooch’s jar of verse]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Kristiina Louhi
Helsinki: Tammi, 2008. 79 p.
ISBN 978-951-31-3974-2
€ 23.30, hardback

‘Methinks,/ said the sausage dog / who loved eating verse, that / poetry is tastier than bone’. Hannele Huovi (born 1949) has written poetry, books for children, novels and fables. The masterly rhymes of Finland’s grand old lady of children’s poetry, Kirsi Kunnas (born 1924), are hard to match, but Huovi comes close. For her, Finnish is easily pliable; her rhymes do not try to be too clever, her tone of voice is warm and humorous, and often the poems are little stories in the tradition of nonsense verse. Huovi’s sense of humour matches perfectly with Kristiina Louhi’s pastel pictures which often add surprising dimensions to the poetic stories. ‘So complete / trust can be: / with your paws skywards, /with your belly bared, you can / lie in the grass.’

Tove Appelgren & Salla Savolainen: Vesta-Linnéas svartaste tanke [Vesta-Linnea down in the dumps]

4 March 2009 | Mini reviews

Vesta-Linnea mieli mustana

Vesta-Linnéas svartaste tanke
[Vesta-Linnea down in the dumps]
Helsingfors: Söderströms, 2008. 34 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-52-2568-9
€ 17, hardback
Vesta-Linnea mieli mustana
Suomentanut [Translated into Finnish by] Tittamari Marttinen
Helsinki: Tammi, 2008. 34 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-31-4204-9
€ 15.20, hardback

Vesta-Linnéa’s family consists of her mother, stepfather, two younger sisters and a big brother. In her opinion, little sisters can be unbearably stupid, and mother understands nothing. In this fourth book about Vesta-Linnéa, the enraged heroine imagines her own funeral after a serious row with her sisters: she would make a beautiful corpse, and then everyone would surely cry their eyes out. Or would they? Appelgren (born 1969) concisely depicts a popular daydream of revenge among little girls with humour. Salla Savolainen’s colourful, comical, detailed but relaxed cartoon-like illustrations work well with the text. And mother turns out to be not so lacking in understanding after all.

Juha Virta: Sylvi Kepposen pitkä päivä [Sylvia Prank’s long day]

3 March 2009 | Mini reviews

Sylvi Kepposen pitkä päiväSylvi Kepposen pitkä päivä
[Sylvia Prank’s long day]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Marika Maijala
Helsinki: Otava, 2008. 33 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-1-22373-3
€ 17, hardback

The long, narrow shape of this picture book is justified, as it literally gives the reader a clear perspective on its illustrations. Sylvi is a little girl whose legs one day grow so long that she is able to leap into space. Sylvi becomes a media phenomenon and the object of universal astonishment – until her legs return roughly to their former size. The book, by Juha Virta (born 1970) and his partner Marika Maijala (born 1974), owes much to nonsense writing and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but the story and the pictures are an amazingly well-balanced combination, expressing humour, unceremonious wonder and a childlike ability to derive pleasure from moments of absurdity.