Tag: books for young people

Marja-Leena Tiainen: Kahden maailman tyttö [The girl from two worlds]

18 January 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kahden maailman tyttö
[The girl from two worlds]
Helsinki: Tammi, 2011. 261 p.
ISBN 978-951-31-5937-5
€ 26.65, hardback

Marja-Leena Tiainen (born 1951) has dealt with unemployment, immigration, and racism in her works, in ways that are accessible to her young readership. She researches her topics with care. The idea for this book dates back to 2004, when the author made the acquaintance of a Muslim girl who lived in a reception centre in eastern Finland; her experiences fed into Tara’s story. Tiainen’s central theme, ‘honour’ violence in the Muslim community, is surprisingly similar to Jari Tervo’s  Layla (WSOY, 2011). Tiainen’s is a traditional story about a girl growing up and surviving, but the novel’s strong points are the authentic description of everyday multiculturalism, and the intensity of the narration. The reader identifies with Tara’s balancing act, which she must carry out in the crossfire of her father’s authority, family tradition, and her own dreams. In spite of everything, the community also becomes a source of security and support for Tara. The narrative arc is coherent and, despite the numerous overlapping time-frames, the tension is sustained right up to the final, conciliatory solution.
Translated by Fleur Jeremiah and Emily Jeremiah

Annika Luther: De hemlösas stad [The city of the homeless]

17 January 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

De hemlösas stad
[The city of the homeless]
Helsingfors: Söderströms, 2011. 237 p.
ISBN 978-951-522-846-8
€ 21.10, paperback
Kodittomien kaupunki
Suomennos [Translation from Swedish into Finnish]: Asko Sahlberg
Helsinki: Teos, 2011. 240 p.
ISBN 978-951-851-404-9
€ 33.10, paperback

Annika Luther’s novel is an example of the popular genre of dystopia. Its ecocritical overtones prompt radically new ways of thinking about the effects of climate change. In 2050, the bulk of the earth’s surface is under water, and people from various corners of the earth have been evacuated to Finland. The majority of the residents in Helsinki are Indian and Chinese. Finns are in the minority, and most of them are hopelessly addicted to alcohol. Fifteen-year-old Lilja lives in the city of Jyväskylä with her family, in a protected and tightly controlled neighbourhood. She becomes interested in her family history and decides to find out about her aunt, a marine biologist who remained in flooded Helsinki. Gradually, the mysteries of the past open up to her. The novel is about survival and adaptation. Luther is an original writer, uncompromising in her ethical stance. As in her previous novel, Ivoria (2009), she describes Helsinki with affection: despite the ruined landscape, the city maintains its proud bearing.
Translated by Fleur Jeremiah and Emily Jeremiah

Once upon a time…

13 January 2012 | Articles, Non-fiction

Sari Airola's illustration in Silva och teservisen som fick fötter (‘Silva and the tea set that took to its feet’, Schildts) by Sanna Tahvanainen

The future of book publishing is not easy to predict. Books for children and young people are still produced in large quantities, and there’s no shortage of quality, either. But will the books find their readers? Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen takes a look at the trends of 2011, while in the review section we’ve picked out a selection of last year’s best titles

The supply of titles for children and young adults is greater than ever, but the attention the Finnish print media pays to them continues to diminish. Writing about this genre appears increasingly ghettoised, featuring only in specialist publications or internet chat rooms and blogs.

Yet, defying the prospect of a recession, Suomen lastenkirjakauppa, a bookshop specialising in children’s literature, was re-established in central Helsinki in autumn 2011, following a ten-year break. Pro lastenkirjallisuus – Pro barnlitteraturen ry, the Finnish society for the promotion of children’s literature, has been making efforts to found a Helsinki centre dedicated to writing and illustration for children. The society made progress in this ambition when it organised a pilot event in May 2011. More…

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen: Valoa valoa valoa [Light light light]

13 January 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Valoa valoa valoaValoa valoa valoa
[Light light light]
Hämeenlinna: Karisto, 2011. 125 p.
ISBN 978-951-23-5433-7
€ 19.95, paperback

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen’s novel for young adults demonstrates the author’s familiarity with classic books for girls, her skill in plotting, and, above all, her respect for youth on its own, unique terms. The novel is set in the summer and autumn of 1986. A nuclear explosion occurs at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in spring, and the fall-out worries 14-year old Mariia, who lives on the outskirts of Turku. She befriends Mimi, who has a dark secret in the attic. The friendship between the two girls soon deepens into love, and is described by Huotarinen (born 1977) beautifully and openly. Huotarinen’s language is colloquial, but nevertheless highly lyrical. Valoa valoa valoa promises a revival in the Finnish novel for young adults; it does not wallow in youthful angst or ‘issues’, although the story touches on these things, too. Self-conscious narration, metafiction, adds another intriguing twist to the story.
Translated by Fleur Jeremiah and Emily Jeremiah


Finlandia Junior Prize 2011

7 December 2011 | In the news

The musician Paula Vesala has chosen, from a shortlist of six, a book for young people by the poet Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Valoa valoa valoa (‘Light light light’, Karisto). The story, which is set at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster, poetically describes the passion and pain of first love, longing for mother and death.

‘Not just what is told, but how it is told. The rythm and timbre of Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen’s language are immensely beautiful. Her phrases do not exist merely to tell the story, but live like poetry or song. Valoa valoa valoa does not incline toward young people from the world of adults; rather, its voice comes, direct and living, from painful, confusing, complex youth, in which young people should really be protected from adults and their blindness. I would have liked to read this book when I was fourteen,’ commented Vesala.

The other five shortlisted books were a picture book for small children, Rakastunut krokotiili (‘Crocodile in love’, Tammi) by Hannu Hirvonen & Pia Sakki, a philosophical picture book about being different and courageous entitled Jättityttö ja Pirhonen (‘Giant girl and Pirhonen’, Tammi) by Hannele Huovi and Kristiina Louhi; a dystopic story set in the 2300s, Routasisarukset (‘Sisters of permafrost’, WSOY), by Eija Lappalainen & Anne Leinonen; a novel about the war experiences of an Ingrian family, Kaukana omalta maalta (‘Far away from homeland’, WSOY) by Sisko Latvus and an illustrated book about gods and myths of the world, Taivaallinen suurperhe (‘Extended heavenly family’, Otava) by Marjatta Levanto & Julia Vuori.

The prize, awarded by the Finnish Book Foundation on 23 November, is worth €30,000.

A light shining

28 July 2011 | Essays, Non-fiction

Portrait of the author: Leena Krohn, watercolour by Marjatta Hanhijoki (1998, WSOY)

In many of Leena Krohn’s books metamorphosis and paradox are central. In this article she takes a look at her own history of reading and writing, which to her are ‘the most human of metamorphoses’. Her first book, Vihreä vallankumous (‘The green revolution’, 1970), was for children; what, if anything, makes writing for children different from writing for adults?

Extracts from an essay published in Luovuuden lähteillä. Lasten- ja nuortenkirjailijat kertovat (‘At the sources of creativity. Writings by authors of books for children and young people’, edited by Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen; The Finnish Institute for Children’s Literature & BTJ Kustannus, 2010)

What is writing? What is reading? I can still remember clearly the moment when, at the age of five, I saw signs become meanings. I had just woken up and taken down a book my mother had left on top of the chest of drawers, having read to us from it the previous day. It was Pilvihepo (‘The cloud-horse’) by Edith Unnerstad. I opened the book and as my eyes travelled along the lines, I understood what I saw. It was a second awakening, a moment of sudden realisation. I count that morning as one of the most significant of my life.

Learning to read lights up books. The dumb begin to speak. The dead come to life. The black letters look the same as they did before, and yet the change is thrilling. Reading and writing are among the most human of metamorphoses. More…

Laura Lähteenmäki: Aleksandra Suuri [Alexandra the Great]

1 February 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Aleksandra Suuri
[Alexandra the Great]
Helsinki: Tammi, 2010. 180 p.
ISBN 978-951-0-36522-9
€18, hardback

Laura Lähteenmäki’s novel for young people is a rare, rollicking tale of independence whose treatment of even heavy topics is guaranteed to make readers laugh, sometimes through their tears. Tim, a Dutch exchange student, shakes things up in 16-year-old Alexandra’s family when he comes to stay. She is used to being the centre of attention in her family and circle of friends, but self-confident Tim brings Alexandra’s status into question. As in her previous novels for young people, Laura Lähteenmäki presents a briskly paced drama of interpersonal relationships. Events are filtered through Alexandra’s eyes as the first-person narrator. Readers can easily get behind her point of view: Tim is truly a jerk. The portrayal of complex family relationships following a traumatic divorce makes this book worthwhile reading for adults as well, even if Lähteenmäki does resort to somewhat clichéd solutions in her portrayal of minor adult characters.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Growing together. New Finnish children’s books

28 January 2011 | Articles

Hulda knows what she wants! From the cover of a new picture book by Markus Majaluoma (see mini reviews*)

What to choose? A mum or dad buys a book hoping it will be an enjoyable read at bedtime – adults presume a book is a ‘good’ one if they themselves genuinely enjoy it, but children’s opinions may differ. Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen reviews the trends in children’s literature published in Finland in 2010, and in the review section we’ve picked out a handful of the best on offer

Judging by the sheer number and variety of titles published, Finnish children’s and young people’s fiction is alive and well. If I had to describe the selection of books published in 2010 in just a few words, I would have to point to the abundance of titles and subject matters, and the awareness of international trends.

Since 2000 the number of books for children and young people published in Finland each year – including both translated and Finnish titles – has been well in excess of 1,500, and increasing, and this growth shows no signs of slowing down.

Little boys, ten-year-olds who don’t read very much and teenage boys, however, were paid very little attention last year. Although gender-specificity has never been a requirement of children’s fiction, boys are notably pickier when it comes to long, wordy books, especially those that might be considered ‘girly’. More…

Maria Turtschaninoff: Underfors [Underville]

28 January 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Helsingfors: Söderströms, 2010. 342 p.
ISBN 978-951-52-2739-3
€16 , hardback

This highly original fantasy novel by the Swedish-speaking author Maria Turtschaninoff (born 1977) is evidence of the innovative thinking that Finnish authors for young people bring to the international fantasy genre, particularly the currently fashionable vampire and werewolf themes associated with the borderline between life and death. The protagonist, Alva, is an adopted teenage girl who has some black holes in her memory of early childhood. A young man called Nide leads Alva to a land situated beneath Helsinki, where Alva learns that she is the heir to the shadow king. This novel is teeming with goblins, sprites, kelpies, pixies and sorceresses. Events come to a head on Midsummer Night, when magic spells can come true. Underfors is a classic story of a person’s search for her identity: Alva constructs her shattered self using fragments she finds from her past. She is liberated from guilt, longing and her inexplicable anguish, but becoming free requires sacrifices and struggles with ethical issues.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Maria Turtschaninoff: Arra. Legender från Lavora [Arra. Legends from Lavora]

12 February 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Arra. Legender från Lavora
[Arra. Legends from Lavora]
Helsinki: Söderströms, 2009. 251 p.
ISBN 978-951-52-2604-4
19.90 €, hardback

Legender från Lavora by Maria Turtschaninoff (born 1977) is limpid and leisurely in tone, yet the story of Arra, a girl from a poor family, is intense, tragic and original. Because she is mute, Arra is thought to be feeble-minded, and thus of no value to her family. She becomes, in fact, an ‘invisible child’ – the author’s reference to neglected children of the present day. The girl uses a special power to compensate for the contempt of those around her: she binds herself in living connection with nature, which leads her in the end to glory and honour. Because of Arra’s long period of muteness as she enters her teens, dialogue is a very small portion of the book. The narrative may be challenging for young readers, but the vivid love story of Arra and Prince Surando has an irresistible, magical enchantment.

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…

Seita Parkkola: Usva [Mist]

29 January 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kuvitus: [Ill. by] Jani Ikonen
Helsinki: WSOY, 2009. 375 p.
ISBN 978-951-0-35352-3
19.70 €, hardback

Usva, the 13-year-old protagonist of Seita Parkkola’s novel of the same name, is unusually tall. From her height, she can see farther and more clearly than other people. Usva is a coming of age story in a minor key, its melancholy underlined by Jani Ikonen’s dark black and white illustrations. The images ooze with romantic dereliction, run-down buildings, storm-driven tree limbs, fish on dry land gasping for air. The illustrations are a good example of the visual world brought to life by the success of Japanese manga. Parkkola aptly describes the painful aspects of puberty from the point of view of both the child and the parent. She adds an air of mystification to the age of 13, which she sees as a turning point between childhood and adulthood. The novel can be read as a vision of the near future, of the disintegration of societal support, the increasing fragility of parenthood. Childhood’s end arrives at an ever younger age, and adulthood is entered with a leap, eyes open, without parental support to guide a child into her own adulthood.