Tag: children’s books

The forest folk’s trip to Helsinki

26 March 2015 | Children's books, Fiction

Raul Roine: Metsänväki käy HelsingissäThe country comes to town in this coyly modern fairy story of 1937 by the classic children’s writer Raul Roine (1907-1960). Reynard the Fox, the village taxi-driver, celebrates restoring his beat-up old Ford by taking his woodland friends – squirrels, chaffinches, bobtails… – on a day out to Helsinki. Trouble starts when a policeman tells them off for eating the plants in the Esplanade park, but the fun really begins when the hares find themselves participating in the marathon which is being run through the city streets that day…

The translation of this delectable tale is by Books from Finland’s long-time collaborator Herbert Lomas (1924-2011), who was often at his best when working on the whimsy of children’s literature.

Spring had come to the forest homeland. The wood anemones were raising their heads shyly from under the moss, large tears of joy were flowing down the spruce trees’ beards of lichen, and sky-ploughs of cranes were coming from the south. They bugled mightily on their trumpets and then landed in the Great Marsh to sample the cranberries More…

Marjatta Levanto & Julia Vuori: Leonardo. Oikealta vasemmalle [Leonardo. From right to left]

6 March 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

leonardoLeonardo. Oikealta vasemmalle
[Leonardo. From right to left]
Teksti [Text by]: Marjatta Levanto
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Julia Vuori
Design: Dog Design
Helsinki: Teos, 2014. 113 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951851-467-4
€34.90, hardback

This handsome non-fiction book is a lavishly illustrated biography of the 15th-century Italian artist genius Leonardo da Vinci. The title refers to the fact that he employed ‘mirror’ writing in his diaries and notebooks. Art historian Marjatta Levanto has published several works on art for children and young people, and many of them have been illustrated by Julia Vuori. Leonardo introduces to the reader the world of the Italian renaissance, the artist’s astonishing and unique inventions – such as various human flying devices – his philosophical writings, his anatomical studies and his magnificent paintings and drawings. Julia Vuori’s amusing little vignettes and larger, colourful illustrations comment on the narrative and mingle with the text and the reproductions of Leonardo’s artwork. Some pictures are printed on transparent pages. This beautiful book is a treasure trove to a reader of any age.

Timo Parvela: Paten aikakirjat [Pate’s chronicles]

26 February 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

parvelaPaten aikakirjat
[Pate’s chronicles]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Pasi Pitkänen
Helsinki: Tammi, 2014. 96 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-31-7800-0
€25.90, hardback

Timo Parvela has achieved acclaim and won readers both in Finland and abroad – in Germany in particular. His Maukka ja Väykkä (Purdy and Barker) series of children’s novels will also soon be published in Great Britain. The Ella series for beginning readers now includes no less than 17 books, and now Pate, one of Ella’s supporting characters, has got his own series. The international counterpart of Paten aikakirjat – abundantly illustrated by Pasi Pitkänen – might be someone like Jeff Kinney, illustrator for Diaries of a Wimpy Kid. After living aborad for many years, Pate’s Uncle Pentti makes a bustling entrance into Pate’s life. Timo Parvela delights as usual with his trademark contrasts between children and slightly weird adults. In between comic mishaps are tons of easy-to-read dialogue, comics and lists of silly things.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Iiro Küttner & Ville Tietäväinen: Puiden tarinoita: Puuseppä [Tales by trees: the carpenter]

26 February 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

kuttnertietavainenPuiden tarinoita: Puuseppä
[Tales by trees: The carpenter]
Kuvitus [Ill. by] Ville Tietäväinen
Helsinki: Books North, 2014. 30 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-952-67980-5-9
€28.90, hardback

The picture book surprise of the year is Puuseppä, the first book in the Tales by trees trilogy, launched with fanfare by Books North, a new small press, and extremely polished in appearance. The story pays homage to the classic tales of Zacharias Topelius and H.C. Andersen. The carpenter of the story is under the special protection of the emperor, and has the time and money to make anything he wants. His chosen project is stupendous – to isolate himself for 30 years and build an enormous tree, using various types of wood and complicated construction techniques. He forgets his family and finally wears himself out in the process. The story closes with a sly moral reflective of Finnish contemporary society, about forced labour, the pressures of working life, and the value of work. Comics artist Ville Tietäväinen’s illustrations are tactile – the picture of tree rings makes you want to touch it and feel the rough texture of the cut wood. Books North is an offshoot of Agency North Oy, which specialises in promoting Finnish drama and film abroad.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Hiroko Motai & Marika Maijala: Miljoner biljoner julgubbar [A million trillion Santas]

19 February 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

joulupukitMiljoner biljoner julgubbar
[A million trillion Santas]
Translated from English into Swedish by Mirjam Ilvas
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Marika Maijala
Helsinki: Schildts & Södersröms, 2014. 40 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-52-3422-3
€19.90, hardback
Miljoona biljoona joulupukkia
Suom. [Translated from English into Finnish by] Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Marika Maijala
Helsinki: Schildts & Södersröms, 2014. 40 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-52-3473-5
€18.90, hardback

Christmas-themed children’s books have a long tradition in Finland. Many new Christmas books appear every year to quench both children’s and adults’ Christmas fever. Japanese Tove Jansson fan Hiroko Motai (born 1972) approached Jansson’s Finnish publisher with her anarchic Santa Claus story with the hope that they would be interested in her idea. Motai’s story explains the miracle that happens every Christmas Eve: there are multiple Santas these days, because there’s no possible way that Santa could make it to the home of every child in the world in just one night. Versatile illustrator Marika Maijala has updated her image register by tightening up her earlier style. The rough chalk drawings brought to this reader’s mind drawings from her own school days. The sparse, naïve style is a excellent proof that a retro style can inspire an illustrator to create her own unique expressions.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Marja-Leena Mikkola: Helmenkantaja [The pearl bearer]

19 February 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

[The pearl bearer]
Helsinki: Otava, 2014.125 pp.
ISBN 978-951-1-28182-5
€23.90, hardback

Marja-Leena Mikkola (born 193x) has had a long career as a poet and translator. She has also written books for children and young adults, and Helmenkantaja shows her thorough familiarity with Anglo-Saxon fantasy fiction. Charles Kingsley’s Water Babies as well as H.C. Andersen’s little mermaid seem to glimmer in the background of this story. True to Mikkola’s ethos, the novel has a dose of ecocriticism in its theme of protection of a threatened pearl oyster. Reetta is fed up with looking out for her younger siblings at the family’s summer cabin; it feels as if the summer is slipping away. This everyday tale gradually breaks off into an exciting adventure in an underwater kingdom. The water boy, heir to the queen of the water, has to be rescued from the clutches of the water wizard. This difficult task requires a daredevil like Reetta, who, in additon to many other important qualities, has the gift of storytelling.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Suvi-Tuuli Junttila: Minne matka, lapanen? [Where are you going, little mitten?]

11 February 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

junttilaMinne matka, lapanen?
[Where are you going, little mitten?]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Suvi-Tuuli Junttila
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2014. 57 pp., ill
ISBN 978-951-52-3420-9
€19.90, hardback
Lilla vanten
[Little mitten]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Suvi-Tuuli Junttila
Ruotsinnos [Translated into Swedish]: by Jonna Brander
Helsingfors: Schildts & Söderströms, 2014. 57 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-52-3460-5
€19.90, hardback

Suvi-Tuuli Junttila’s book combines assemblages and miniatures with winning originality. The exciting journey of the mitten, acorn and bottlecap from autumn to a new spring will inspire creative play and allows young readers to see everyday wonders from a new point of view. Illustration has always been more important than writing for designer and graphic artist Junttila (born 1979) – it is the pictures’ job to create their own story for the viewer. She always places her illustrations in the starring role and gives the text the task of suggestion. Junttila’s previous picture book, Missä, tässä, jossakin (‘Where, here, somewhere’, 2011) won first prize in the Mikkeli illustration triennial.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Réka Király: Yksi vielä [One more]

11 February 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

kiralyYksi vielä
[One more]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Réka Király
Helsinki: Etana Editions 2014. 32 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-952-7105-01-6
€17.90, hardback

Réka Király, born in Hungary in 1977, has previously collaborated with fellow illustrator Marika Maijala. Her bright, harmonious fields of primary-colours are well suited to a story influenced by simple folk narratives that tells of animals coming one by one to stay in an uninhabited small cabin. As expected, the cabin creaks and cracks and finally breaks into a million pieces that fly into the air. Kiréaly’s simplified animal characters are very sympathetic. Yksi vielä is a good example of a picture book that develops a child’s sense of image and shape through clever visual inventiveness.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Maija & Anssi Hurme: Lepakkopoika [Batboy]

5 February 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Maija Hurme
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2014. 27 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-52-3361-5
€22.90, hardback
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Maija Hurme
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2014.
ISBN 978-951-52-3326-4
€28.90, hardback

Bat boy is a compact picture book with sparse text and abundant pictures that are well-balanced – there is never too much or too little of either. A six-year-old named Ilmari changes into a bat boy who stalks people in the dim of evening. The book describes the feelings of a boy approaching school age with sensitivity – the story deals with defiance of adult authority, rules and restrictions. Ilmari can also be thought of as a special child who experiences the world differently than other kids his age. The day care he attends is presented in both text and pictures as a prison and the adult day care workers as guards. Maija Hurme’s watercolour illustrations have an anarchic energy. The comic strip narrative supports Ilmari’s feelings of aggression. His fantasies are presented as blue-toned photographs with white borders, but the colours of the home and park settings glow with a message of safety, caring and trust.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Jenni Erkintalo: Värejä meressä [Colours in the sea]

29 January 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

erkintaloVärejä meressä
[Colours in the sea]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Jenni Erkintalo
Helsinki: Etana Editions, 2014. 32 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-952-7105-00-9
€17.90, hardback

In recent years a large number of board books have appeared in Finland: many of the graphic artists and designers of the younger generation have taken an interest in them. The style is generally modern, but unfussy and easy for a child to make sense of. Graphic artist Jenni Erkintalo’s (born 1978) picture book debut is ebullient, in all its simplicity. With supple rhyming text and minimal drawings, little readers are guided through the beginnings of learning colours. The three primary colours give birth to new colours and the illustrations demonstrate the mixture of colours in a fun way. The book has thick cardboard pages that can stand up to even a two-year-old’s rough handling.

Translated by Lola Rogers

Saku Heinänen: Zaida ja lumienkeli [Zaida and the snow angel]

29 January 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Zaida ja lumienkeliZaida ja lumienkeli
[Zaida and the snow angel]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Saku Heinänen
Helsinki: Tammi, 2014. 207 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-31-7631-0
€25.90, hardback

The adopted child’s story is already a familiar one from old classics of girl’s literature. This debut novel by Saku Heinänen, the story of Zaida, a girl adopted from India, draws on this tradition, yet Heinänen (born 1968), a professor in graphic design at Aalto University, succeeds in creating a fresh and original setting and sympathetic central characters. Zaida is used to talking openly with her parents, but bullying at school makes her withdraw into her shell. She gets her strength from a soul sister who understands her bad moods. This tension is what gives this novel its extraordinary suspense. Heinänen’s book doesn’t paint a child’s everyday life as idyllic – there are many kinds of secrets in one little family. Zaida’s uncle is prone to drink and melancholy, but the two are still close. Heinänen also illustrated the book and designed his own font – Freya – just for the book. His wife is children’s book author and illustrator Christel Rönns.

Translated by Lola Rogers

The magic box: childhood revisited

25 December 2014 | Essays, Non-fiction

Tin soldier and the cat. Illustration: Usko Laukkanen

The tin soldier and the Blue Cat. Illustration: Usko Laukkanen

A tribute to Oiva Paloheimo’s children’s novel Tinaseppä ja seitsemän (‘The Tinsmith and the Seven’, illustrated by Usko Laukkanen, WSOY, 1956)

I’ve happened upon this (Christmassy) text of mine – first published in Books from Finland back in 1995 – when sorting through my papers as I begin to contemplate my retirement. With it I would like to offer my goodbyes, and many thanks, to you – to our readers, for whom I have been commissioning, editing and writing texts for the past thirty-one years – it’s time to do other things; time to read the books that still remain unread…

A dusky winter’s afternoon. Outside, soft and grey, a little snow is falling. I am sitting in our living-room, in an armchair covered in a pale yellow boucle fabric, my legs curled up, eating a carrot. In my lap is a book which I have fetched from the library after school. Conversation, the faint clattering of crockery, a singing kettle, the smell of food: grandmother and mother are cooking supper in the kitchen. My little sister is asleep.

But these sounds and the room around me do not really exist: there is only the world of make-believe in which Tiina sets off on her adventures with the Blue Cat, the Tinsmith, the St Bernard dog, the star and the spider: that world is a magic box which is able to contain all of childhood. More…

To write, to draw

18 December 2014 | This 'n' that

Self-portrait: Tove Jansson with her creations. Picture: @Moomin Characters

Self-portrait: Tove Jansson with her creations. Picture: @Moomin Characters™

A new Finnish biography of Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was published in 2013; the artist and creator of the Moomins has been celebrated in 2014 in her centenary year. Tove Jansson. Tee tytötä ja rakasta by Tuula Karjalainen was published in English this autumn, translated by David McDuff, under the title Tove Jansson: Work and Love (Penguin Global, Particular Books).

The book was reviewed by The Economist newspaper on 22 November. Unsurprisingly, according to the review, Jansson was more interesting as a writer than as a painter:

’Jansson always saw herself first as a serious painter. She exhibited frequently in Finland, and won awards and commissions for large public murals. Her reputation there as a writer lagged far behind the rest of the world. Ms Karjalainen is a historian of Finnish art, and although she covers Jansson’s writing, it is the paintings that really interest her. This is a pity. Jansson was a more interesting writer than a painter, and her life sheds much light on her particular quality as a storyteller.’

Whereas Karjalainen concentrates on Jansson’s painting, another biography of Jansson, by the Swedish literary scholar Boel Westin (reviewed here) focuses on Jansson as a writer. Here, you can find a selection of Tove Jansson’s art.

A quotation from The Economist‘s review: ‘Her use of Moomins to defy the war is characteristic. Everywhere in her fiction there is the same sense of deflection and indirection. She hated ideologies, messages, answers. And it somehow fits that she fell in love with both men and women. Ambivalence was a kind of comfort to her. As one of her characters says, “Everything is very uncertain, and that is what makes me calm.’

Tove Jansson’s versatile brilliance as an artist, we think, is at its best in the way she combined illustration and text in her Moomin stories. Their (great) visual and philosophical value lies in the praise of freedom and independence of the mind: for everyone, young or old.

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…

The princess who quit

27 February 2014 | Authors, Interviews

Alexandra Salmela. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Alexandra Salmela. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Interview with Alexandra Salmela, whose second book, Kirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia (‘The giraffe mummy and other silly adults’, Teos, 2013), is for children – and for those adults who admit their silliness

Once upon a time there was a boy called Sulo. Just a normal lad, more a middle-of-the-road character than winner material. And not even always brave, let alone cheerful. An ordinary sprog isn’t enough for Sulo’s parents, so they take the boy to a child repair shop. There, new parts are fitted to children: virtuoso fingers, football-feet and angel-faces.

In addition to Sulo, Alexandra Salmela’s Kirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia (‘The giraffe mummy and other silly adults’) introduces us to the misunderstood Flabby Monster, Adalmiina, who wings through trees like an ape, and a father who absentmindedly loses his head. The work is the second book by Alexandra Salmela, who was born in Bratislava, in what was then Czechoslovakia, and now lives in Tampere.

A-L E: How did the idea of a story-book come up? More…