Archive for January, 2014

Juba: Minerva. Alajuoksun kelluva pullukka [Minerva. The floating dumpling of the Lower Reaches]

9 January 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

jubaMinerva. Alajuoksun kelluva pullukka
[The floating dumpling of the Lower Reaches]
Helsinki: Otava, 2013. 48 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-1-25731-8
€17.80, hardback

Minerva is a cartoon character who has appeared in two previous volumes (2006, 2009) by Juba, a.k.a. Jussi Tuomola. Juba is the creator of an extremely popular comics series for adults about the woman and the pig (both male chauvinist and porcine), Viivi and Wagner. Minerva is a brave and extremely resourceful little heroine who is never daunted by even the wildest adventures she experiences after leaving home to fly around in weird lands. Petra, the floating dumpling of the Lower Reaches, is a woman with magical powers who likes to travel in a flying gondola. In this volume Minerva also meets other old friends on her journey under water, underground, on a river and in the air above a jungle, in pursuit of a rare ingredient for a perfume that Petra has determined to acquire no matter what. The comedy in the uninhibitedly fantastic adventures, illustrated effectively in cartoon squares of different sizes, will amuse readers of many ages.

Riina Katajavuori & Salla Savolainen: Pentti ja kitara [Pentti and the guitar]

9 January 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

katajavuoriPentti ja kitara
[Pentti and the guitar]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Salla Savolainen
Helsinki: Tammi, 2013. 32 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-31-6646-5
€22.90, hardback

Even early-years education is packed with activities these days. Pentti has a large extended family who really know how to have fun. He wants to learn how to play the guitar as well as his uncle Jaska. His mum tries to suggest an instrument she thinks would be more appropriate, but Pentti will not be put off. The Pentti picture book series is attractive for its nostalgic style; you can never be quite sure whether the era depicted is in the past or the present day. In this story, Riina Katajavuori focuses on what’s essential, yet still manages to convey the basics of playing the guitar – including dissonance and Jimi Hendrix. Salla Savolainen’s illustrations effectively capture the excitement of a child’s new hobby.

Translated by Ruth Urbom

Laura Lähteenmäki: 
[Hits songs]

9 January 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

[Hit songs]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2013. 230 pp.
ISBN 978-951-0-39493-9
€28.90, hardback

Laura Lähteenmäki addresses the difficult topics of friendship and loyalty in her novels for young adult readers. Now she has taken on an important topic: the right of a girl approaching adulthood to set boundaries around her body and mind. Sixteen-year-old Aino is a good girl who hasn’t had time for anything in her life besides her involvement in the Girl Guides. Her mother’s unemployment has repercussions on their family relations, and Aino turns elsewhere to escape the melancholy atmosphere at home. Interest from her classmate Samuli comes at an opportune time, but inexperienced Aino is confused by his erratic emotions.The depiction of emotional and physical abuse in this novel is grimly authentic. Lähteenmäki provides an excellent sense of a girl’s feeling of detachment and her struggle between her environment and the pressures she has created for herself.

Translated by Ruth Urbom

Katri Tapola & Karoliina Pertamo:
 Toivon talvi
 [Toivo’s winter]

9 January 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

tapolapertamoToivon talvi

[Toivo’s winter]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Karoliina Pertamo
Helsinki: Tammi, 2013. 23 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-31-7047-9
€14.90, hardback

Most Finnish board books have been following the contemporary trend for strong colour palettes with pared-down character designs. Toivon talvi is a refreshing exception to the rule, dealing with everyday things children experience in their lives. One-year-old Toivo loves being outdoors. What’s most fun is when his mum comes out and plays with him. The first snowfall of the year causes him some confusion, but gradually Toivo learns to get the best out of the joys of winter. Katri Tapola’s story, with its child-friendly pacing which genuinely empathises with little ones’ fickle emotions, focuses on the boy’s everyday routines, thus conveying a sense of security. Karoliina Pertamo’s characters are simple sketches yet expressive enough to suit small children.

Translated by Ruth Urbom


Ville Hytönen & Matti Pikkujämsä: Hipinäaasi, apinahiisi 

9 January 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

hytonenpikkujamsaHipinäaasi, apinahiisi 

Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Matti Pikkujämsä
Helsinki: Tammi, 2013. 32 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-31-7043-1
€24.90, hardback

In Ville Hytönen’s gently educational tale, some woodland creatures poke fun at a wheezy donkey and an oddball monkey. In the end, the animals who were the target of derision turn their unusual characteristics into strengths. Then they all make up, all the residents of the forest launch into an exuberant dance, and the earlier teasing is forgotten. Matti Pikkujämsä has been an extraordinarily productive in recent years: his illustrations have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines as well as children’s books. Hipinäaasi, apinahiisi, which is his first solo picture book, features rhythm and movement; sometimes he creates extremely elaborate ornamentation, while other images calm the eye with spare yet colourful scraffito techniques.

Translated by Ruth Urbom

Fiat lux! Helsinki lit

9 January 2014 | This 'n' that

LUX_Helsinki 2013_cmyk_negaWhen there’s no snow in January, as is the case this year, the darkness does make Helsinki appear somewhat joyless. This year Canada and parts of the United States got more than a taste of freezing Arctic temperatures – but at the time of writing winter is still postponed in the lower half of Finland.

A temporary relief was brought by Lux Helsinki – staged now for the sixth time – as light, colour and sound made the capital brighter and more beautiful between 4 and 8 January.

The core of the city, the Cathedral, was adorned by a large heart placed at the top of the steps, beating in colours to music.


Corazón by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada. Photo: Marina Okras

Corazón, by the Madrid-born artist and fashion designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, in collaboration with the production and design company D-Facto, reflects her design themes of love and happiness.

One of the participants in Lux Helsinki was Unen ääret / Edges of Dreams: projected on to the façade of the Hakasalmi Villa (1843–46), between the Finlandia Hall and the Music House, it was inspired by the history of the building and its inhabitants. Now a museum, it became known as the home of a benefactor of the city, a rich and famous woman of her time, Aurora Karamzin from the 1860s to the 1890s.

Lux Helsinki 2014. Helsingin kaupunki. Kuva: Lauri Rotko

Hakasalmi Villa: Edges of Dreams by Mika Haaranen. Photo: Lauri Rotko

The building was seen through dreamlike visions formed by painted films and shadow patterns by Mika Haaranen, a lighting and set designer and photographer. His works extend from the world of theatre and musicals to contemporary dance, concerts and film. The accompanying music was composed by Aake Otsala.


Lux Tram by students of lighting and sound design, Theatre Academy. Photo: Hannu Iso-Oja

Helsinki trams have been transporting citizens from 1891. One of the trams was transformed into a moving light installation by the use of programmable LED floodlights. The work was designed and realised by the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki lighting design students Riikka Karjalainen and Alexander Salvesen. A pity it was not possible to hop on…

The books that sold in December

9 January 2014 | In the news

riikkapeloIt seems that the Finlandia Prize does, as intended, have a strong influence in book sales. In December, a novel about the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva by Riikka Pelo, Jokapäiväinen elämämme (’Our everyday life’), which won the fiction prize in December, reached number one on the list of best-selling Finnish fiction.

The next four books on the list – compiled by the Finnish Booksellers’ Association – were the latest thriller by Ilkka Remes, Omertan liitto (‘The Omerta union’), a novel Me, keisarinna (‘We, the tsarina’), about the Russian empress Catherine the Great by Laila Hirvisaari, a novel, Hägring 38 (‘Mirage 38’), by Kjell Westö, and a novel, Kunkku (‘The king’), by Tuomas Kyrö.

The winner of the Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction, Murtuneet mielet (‘Broken minds’), about the mentally crippled Finnish soldiers in the Second World War, also did well: it was number two on the non-fiction list. (Number one was a book about a Finnish actor and television presenter, Ville Haapasalo, who trained at the theatre academy in St Petersburg and became a film star in Russia.)

The ten best-selling books for children and young people were all Finnish (and written in Finnish): it seems that this time the buyers of Christmas presents favoured books written by Finnish authors.