Tag: books for young people

Maria Turtschaninoff: Maresi. Krönikor från röda klostret [Maresi. Chronicles of the red convent]

6 March 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

turtschaninoffMaresi. Krönikor från röda klostret
[Maresi. Chronicles of the red convent]
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2014. 213 pp.
ISBN 978-951-52-3471-1
€18.90, hardback
Maresi. Punaisen luostarin kronikoita
Suom. [Translated from Swedish into Finnish by]: Marja Kyrö
Helsinki: Tammi, 2014. 213 pp.
ISBN 978-951-31-8000-3
€25.90, hardback

Maria Turtschaninoff (born 1971) has quickly established a place as a leading author of Finland-Swedish young adults’ literature. Her fantasy novel Maresi is set in an old convent run entirely by women. The narrator Maresi is a conscientious girl loved by the congregation of sisters; she is gradually learning of her own special talents and what is expected from her. The peace of the convent is threatened with the arrival of the mute, uncommunicative Jai. Her experience of trauma gradually come to light and the girls work up their collective courage, together with the other women, to challenge the despotism of men. Turtschaninoff is a visual storyteller; her descriptions of nature, convent life, and animal care are indelible. The setting is vividly drawn and the sheltered environment feels well depicted. The novel unflinchingly takes on women’s experiences of physical and psychological violence, and its points of identification transcend all cultural boundaries. This provocative, feminist novel won the 2014 Finlandia Junior prize.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen: Kimmel

5 February 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Hämeenlinna: Karisto, 2014. 120 pp.
€22.90, hardback

In Kimmel, Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, known also for her poetry, presents no fewer than 12 teenage girls whose fates are left to be pondered long after the story is completed. Kimmel is a girl hero whose parents place the rescue of the entire planet on her shoulders. She has no doubt she will succeed in her task. She acquires a small pink airplane decorated with glitter – even though ‘there’s really nothing soft and pretty and hello-kitty about sixteen year olds’. For her companion on this epic trip Kimmel gets an interactive night book that empathises with her feelings and sometimes gives her concrete advice. Kimmel can be seen as a modern version of classic girl’s books – the author plays with girl’s book clichés but challenges the reader to think about myths of womanhood and the limits set by society. Huotarinen writes about the explosions of joy and the depths of sadness in girlhood with magical poignance and poetry.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Is less really more? On new books for young readers

18 December 2014 | Articles, Non-fiction

Black as ebony: the last book in the ‘Snow White’ trilogy for young adults by Salla Simukka

Black as ebony: volume three of the ‘Snow White’ trilogy for young adults by Salla Simukka

This year has been an eventful for Finnish literature in many ways, not least in terms of young adults’ and children’s books. The full ramifications of Finland’s turn as the theme country at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair will only be known with the passage of time, but more mega-success stories to stand alongside Salla Simukka’s Lumikki (Snow White, Tammi) trilogy for young adults – now sold to almost 50 countries – are eagerly awaited. Visitors to the Frankfurt Book Fair also got a look at Finland-Swedish illustration at the By/Kylä (‘Village’) stand, which presented varied works by nine illustrators and animators in a memorable exhibit.

Book sales continue to fall in Finland. The major general-interest publishers – WSOY, Tammi, and Otava – have cut back on Finnish titles and are concentrating on high-sellers and proven authors.

Books in series are now a dominant phenomenon in literature for children and young adults, aiming to win readers’ loyalty with their continuing stories and characters. Many longtime authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults have had to look for new contacts, and publishers are increasingly hesitant to launch debut artists. More…

Archives open!

12 December 2014 | This 'n' that

Illustration: Hannu Konttinen

Illustration: Hannu Konttinen

For 41 years, from 1967 to 2008, Books from Finland was a printed journal. In 1976, after a decade of existence as not much more than a pamphlet, it began to expand: with more editorial staff and more pages, hundreds of Finnish books and authors were featured in the following decades.

Those texts remain archive treasures.

In 1998 Books from Finland went online, partially: we set up a website of our own, offering a few samples of text from each printed issue. In January 2009 Books from Finland became an online journal in its entirety, now accessible to everyone.

We then decided that we would digitise material from the printed volumes of 1976 to 2008: samples of fiction and related interviews, reviews, and articles should become part of the new website.

The process took a couple of years – thank you, diligent Finnish Literature Exchange (FILI) interns (and Johanna Sillanpää) : Claire Saint-Germain, Bruna di Pastena, Merethe Kristiansen, Franziska Fiebig, Saara Wille and Claire Dickenson! – and now it’s time to start publishing the results. We’re going to do so volume by volume, going backwards.

The first to go online was the fiction published in 2008: among the authors are the poets Tomi Kontio and Rakel Liehu and prose writers Helvi Hämäläinen (1907–1998), Sirpa Kähkönen, Maritta Lintunen, Arne Nevanlinna, Hagar Olsson (1893–1979), Juhani Peltonen (1941–1998) and Mika Waltari (1908–1979).

To introduce these new texts, we will feature a box on our website, entitled New from the archives, where links will take you to the new material. The digitised texts work in the same way as the rest of the posts, using the website’s search engine (although for technical reasons we have been unable to include all the original pictures).



By the time we reach the year 1976, there will be texts by more than 400 fiction authors on our website. We are proud and delighted that the printed treasures of past decades – the best of the Finnish literature published over the period – will be available to all readers of Books from Finland.

The small world of Finnish fiction will be even more accessible to the great English-speaking universe. Read on!

The Finlandia Junior Prize 2014

20 November 2014 | In the news

juniorMaria Turtschaninoff’s third fantasy book for young people, Maresi. Krönikor från röda klostret / Maresi. Punaisen luostarin kronikoita (‘Maresi. Chronicles of the Red Convent’, Schildts & Söderströms; Finnish translation by Marja Kyrö, publisher Tammi) was awarded the Finlandia Junior Prize, worth €30,000, on 20 November.

The winner was chosen by the scriptwriter and film director Johanna Vuoksenmaa who, in her awarding speech, said that it is ‘an exceptionally powerful fantasy book which, in addition to telling an exquisite, wise and exciting story, also provides a welcome correction to the gender division of fantasy book characters, which has been slightly skewed ever since Tolkien. Maresi reminds me that even today there are places in the world where readers are not sought for books, where knowledge is not on offer to young, thirsty minds. People’s opportunities to know and learn are limited and human rights trampled upon.’

The other five candidates were the following:

Written and illustrated by Saku Heinänen, Zaida ja lumienkeli (‘Zaida and the snow angel’, Tammi) is the story of a little girl whose school days are not always happy; Puiden tarinoita. Puuseppä (‘Stories by trees. The carpenter’, Books North) is a fairy-tale written by Iiro Küttner and illustrated by the graphic artist and cartoonist Ville Tietäväinen; Jyri Paretskoi’s first novel Shell’s Angles ja Kalajoen hiekat (‘Shell’s Angles and the Kalajoki sands’, Karisto) is a humorous story for young teenagers; Min egen lilla liten / Oma pieni pikkuruinen (‘My own tiny little thing’, Schildts & Söderströms, Teos) is a picture story about longing for closeness told by Ulf Stark and illustrated by Linda Bondestam; a picture book about a little squirrel by Mila Teräs, Olga Orava ja metsän salaisuus (‘Olga Squirrel an the forest’s secret’, Lasten Keskus) is illustrated by Karoliina Pertamo.

The painter who wrote

6 October 2014 | Non-fiction, Reviews

tovebrev.skyddsomslag.inddBrev från Tove Jansson
Urval och kommentarer Boel Westin & Helen Svensson
[Letters from Tove Jansson, selected and commented by Boel Westin & Helen Svensson]
Helsingfors: Schildts & Söderströms, 2014. 491 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-52-3408-7
In Finnish (translated by Jaana Nikula):
Kirjeitä Tove Janssonilta
ISBN 978-951-52-3409-4

Nothing could be more mistaken than to describe Tove Jansson as ‘Moominmamma’. In her statements she was both cutting and complex – conflict-ridden and full of paradoxes. And she was nobody’s mamma.

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) became world famous (especially ‘big’ in Japan) with her Moomins – the characters of her illustrated books for children (1945–1970) – and her books for adults are a part of her work that is at least as interesting. Her training, ambition and artistic passion were, however, focused on painting.

Anyone who has read Boel Westin’s excellent biography –  now available in English, Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words‘knows’ all this, but to experience it through Jansson’s own letters, in an alternating process of reflection and recreation, brings the problems close to the reader in quite a different way: one that is shocking, but also deeply human. More…

Reading matters? On new books for young readers

9 January 2014 | Articles, Children's books, Non-fiction

Pixon brothers: a story book by Malin Kivelä and Linda Bondestam

The Pixon brothers don’t read books, they love the telly: story by Malin Kivelä, illustrations by Linda Bondestam (Bröderna Pixon och TV:ns hemtrevliga sken, ‘The Pixon brothers and the homely shimmer of the telly’)

Finnish picture books for children have long been reliable export goods around the world. In the last few years, a number of novels for children have come along in their wake: works by authors such as Timo Parvela and Siri Kolu have been translated into a good many languages.

Now young adult literature has also blazed a trail on to the international market – in what also seems to be almost a matter of precision timing with regard to the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014. Finnish publishers have been investing in their home-grown lists of children’s and young adult books ever since the turn of the millennium, and now the time has come to harvest the fruits of their long-term efforts.


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

Future, fantasy and everyday life: books for young readers

24 January 2013 | Articles, Children's books, Non-fiction

A giant meets the bunnies: a new story by Esko-Pekka Tiitinen, illustrated by Nikolai Tiitinen

Fantasy novels and dystopias feature in the new Finnish fiction for young readers; popular children’s books are recycled – stories and illustrations are adapted to new media and for new age groups. Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen takes a look at new books for young readers published in 2012

All new mothers in Finland receive a ‘maternity package’ from the state containing items for the baby (including bedding, clothing and various childcare products) intended to give each baby a good start in life. This tradition, which started in 1938, is believed to be the only such programme in the world.

Each package also contains the baby’s first book, traditionally a sturdy board book by a Finnish author. The past few years have seen more original board books published in Finland than ever before: they are doing well in competition alongside books translated from other languages. Board books for babies have become a focus for Finnish illustrators and graphic artists. These books, with their simple visual language, have taken on a retro look.

History was made with the Finlandia Junior award, when for the first time the prestigious prize was given to a picture book originally written in Finland-Swedish: Det vindunderliga ägget (‘A most extraordinary egg’, Schildts & Söderströms) by Christel Rönns. The award can also be seen as an acknowledgement of the brave, experimental Finland-Swedish children’s picture books that are being published these days. Finnish-language picture books, on the other hand, are still crying out for more figures to shake up traditional practices. More…

Seita Vuorela: Karikko [The reef]

24 January 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

[The reef]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Jani Ikonen
Helsinki: WSOY, 2012. 357 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-0-38640-8
€28.90,  hardback

Karikko is a self-assured work, aware of its odd charm. It is intended for readers who prefer not to have pre-digested material fed to them; this book has been classified as both a young adult and adult book. Vuorela (née Parkkola) is excellent proof that the global boom in fantasy literature can be harnessed in support of an author’s own artistic ambitions to reinvigorate the genre. She has also crossed a difficult barrier by making it into the American publishing market. Karikko delves into feelings of decay, devastation and abandonment. The text is redolent with the smells of seaweed and mildew; there are textures pockmarked with rust and the melancholy of abandoned homes. At the centre of Karikko is a family with mismatched siblings – 14-year-old Mitja and his elder brother Waldemar – as well as abandonment, sorrow and guilt. Seita Vuorela structures her plot as a mosaic with flashbacks, foreshadowing and random bits. This technique is quite challenging for the reader but ultimately rewarding.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Katarina von Numers-Ekman: Singer

24 January 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Jenny Lucander-Holm
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2012. 144 pp.
ISBN  978-951-52-3013-3
€17.90,  hardback

Singer by Finland-Swedish author Katarina von Numers-Ekman deals with some fairly dark childhood emotions in an intense way, but manages to avoid too much angst. Josefin is an 11-year-old girl who lives alone with her father following the death of her mother. The girl does not dwell daily on the loss of her mum, but as she grows up she finds herself missing her mother more. This novel devotes an unusual amount of space to questions of language and identity through the mother’s British background and the family’s Finland-Swedish heritage. Singer is a clever double reference: Josefin has a Singer brand sewing machine, and the key plot point centres around a singing exam. Josefin goes through a number of embarrassing experiences with her friends. Her feelings of embarrassment or shame are linked with things like poor swimming skills,  a classmate’s teasing, or a friend’s grandfather’s alcohol consumption. Katarina von Numers-Ekman manages to infiltrate the world of children’s experiences without making the reader feel like a voyeur. Singer provides numerous points of access to the painful growing-up years of childhood and early adolescence.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Laura Lähteenmäki: North End: Niskaan putoava taivas [North End: Falling Sky]

24 January 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

North End: Niskaan putoava taivas
[North End: Falling Sky]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2012. 258 pp.
ISBN 978-951-0-38598-2
€27.90, hardback

The global success of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy has spurred a boom in dystopian stories in Finland as well. The core themes of independence and friendship familiar from Lähteenmäki’s previous works are also present in this story about the impending end of the world. North End is set in the near future, around 50 years from now. This is hinted at by a reference to Victoria, queen of Sweden (currently a young princess), as a senior citizen. Recycling is a necessary part of daily life, and devices similar to exercise bikes are used to generate electricity at night. Widespread scarcity has forced people to become watchful of others, for good and bad. Tekla, a 14-year-old girl, has moved to North End with her family and is still looking to make new friends. Everyday life is thrown into disarray for Tekla and her younger brother when their separated parents get their custody weeks muddled up, and the children are left to fend for themselves. After the initial rush of freedom, the responsibility begins to frighten the siblings. Relationships and parenthood are put under the microscope on many occasions in this work, which will eventually grow into a trilogy.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Magdalena Hai: Kerjäläisprinsessa [The Beggar Princess]

24 January 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

[The Beggar Princess]
Helsinki: Karisto, 2012. 188 pp.
ISBN 978-951-23-5593-8
€23.90, hardback

Kerjäläisprinsessa by the pseudonymous Magdalena Hai (born 1978) is a steampunk-esque novel for young teens that utilises an inventive alternative version of history. It is set in Greenland in the 1860s, where a community of settlers established by the Vikings has survived a minor ice age. The royal family were forced into exile, but the king is more interested in building curious inventions than saving the nation of Umbrovia. Strange robots and steam-powered inventions liven up the convoluted adventure. Princess Gigi has had to grow up as the object of everyone’s undivided attention. She befriends Henry, a boy from a poor family, and sets about saving her country from a looming threat. There is humour in this book, particularly in the character of Mussovitz, a werewolf: he has an idiosyncratic lisping manner of speaking. It remains to be seen whether Umbrovia will emerge as a nation ruled by powerful women in the subsequent titles in this series.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Siiri Enoranta: Painajaisten lintukoto [Sweet haven of nightmares]

24 January 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Painajaisten lintukoto
[Sweet haven of nightmares]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2012. 330 pp.
ISBN 978-951-0-38932-4
€26.90, hardback

Siiri Enoranta’s debut novel, Omenmean vallanhaltija (‘The Ruler of Omenmea’, Robustos, 2009) was nominated for the Finlandia Junior award, while another of her novels, Gisellen kuolema (‘The death of Giselle’) was nominated for the Runeberg Prize. Painajaisten lintukoto marks a departure from the genre Enoranta had focused on in her previous works. Her books incorporate the joy of spellbinding, spontaneous fantasy and skill at creating ever more uncanny settings. This novel is situated in the vacillating borderlands between sleep and the waking world. Lunni is a teenage boy who has been set a challenging task of overcoming nightmares and restoring natural sleep to people. The boy is joined by Tui, a mechanical girl. Other important figures in the story are giant tame birds that help Lunni and Tui get from place to place. The prose of Siiri Enoranta (1987) is lyrical, but it also contains points of contact for fans of fantasy writing of many different ages.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Too much, too soon?

20 January 2012 | This 'n' that

Candace Bushnell’s Summer & the City (about Carrie Bradshaw’s first years in NYC, published last year) is categorised among books for children and young people on the Finnish best-sellers’ list. The Finnish translation occupied the eighth place in December.

But hang on, wasn’t this Carrie in the fantastically famous HBO television adaptation of Bushnell’s novel Sex and the City very much in her thirties, as were her three best friends – all with, yes, quite active ‘adult’ sex lives…? In Finland the series had a rather silly title, Sinkkuelämää, ‘Single life’.

Well, of course it would be foolish not to continue the fantasticaly famous money-spinning saga, so Bushnell has gone back in time, first to Carrie’s school years in small-town America in The Carrie Diaries (2010), then to her first years in NYC in  Summer & the City (2011) – and HarperCollins has pigeonholed them among its ‘teen books’.

Confusingly, the Finnish titles of these two books also contain the word referring to the television seriesSinkkuelämää – Carrien nuoruusvuodet and  Sinkkuelämää – Ensimmäinen kesä New Yorkissa. As the Finnish publisher Tammi has attached TV title to them, the customer assumes these are books for ‘adults’ – as indeed was the original Sex and the City.

This makes one wonder what exactly ‘books for young people’ are. The main characters are teens themselves? If Bushnell goes still further back in time, we shall be reading about naughty Li´l Carrie hitting another toddler on the head with her doll, in a board book.