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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?
A.S.: Sort of by accident. At first I hadn’t thought of writing the stories in Finnish – after all, I didn’t spend my childhood in Finland, so the imagery was foreign to me. But I had written stories for a Slovakian magazine and when I mentioned that to my editor, he wanted to see what I had done. Then I translated something for the publishers and they liked it.
A-L E: The book was published simultaneously in Finland and Slovakia. Were the stories born at the same time in the two languages?
A S Yes, I wrote the book simultaneously in Finnish and Slovakian, sometimes literarily, so that I had Finnish and Slovakian files open at the same time on my computer. It’s hard to say which book is the translation…. Writing in two languages was like a multiple sieve, it taught me to spot mistakes and inaccuracies effectively.
A-L E: You have two children. Are they trial readers for your stories?
A S: No, that never really occurred to me. It turns out that I am much better at writing stories than telling them. When I tell stories I tend to get stuck on some detail or I begin to meander.
A-L E: The richly detailed, colourful illustrations are by Martina Matlovičová. Could you describe your illustrator a little?
A S: The world today is a very global place, and many illustrators use the same generic style, wherever they’re from. Martina is a find, she has her own distinctive style. The pictures in the Finnish edition of Kirahviäiti, by the way, are slightly paler than those in the Slovakian edition – and they’re still very colourful by Finnish standards.
A-L E: Four years ago you rose like a comet in the Finnish literary world with your first novel, 27 eli kuolema tekee taiteilijan (‘27 or death makes the artist’). It was interesting, among other things, for the fact that you wrote in Finnish, even though Finnish is not your native language. The novel received the Helsingin Sanomat Prize for the best debut novel and was also on the shortlist for the Finlandia Prize. What do you think of the media circus that surrounded it now?
A S: Everything happened very quickly and at once. Suddenly there was too much attention, for me as well as, I’m sure, for the reading public. The media attention may actually have harmed the book. The hoo-ha ended as quickly as it had begun, and afterwards there was a long, long silence. The manuscript of my new novel has been stalled for a long time – but I have begun to find the right form.
A-L E: There’s a lot of absurd humour and dizzying twists of the plot in the stories of Kirahviäiti. But beneath the wildness there’s often a serious tone and themes – for example an ecological message and acceptance of difference.
A S: Certainly. I wanted to write a book that would be as readable and rewarding for adults as it is for children. But I tried to conceal deep and serious subjects in the stories in such a way that they wouldn’t seem too humourless or ranting. This balancing act sometimes caused headaches in the writing. It felt as if I was just pursuing my own agenda – the texts were too heavy, boring for children, ranting. A that point I just had to let imagination take control: the wilder and more absurd the story, the better and more digestible it became, the excess weight was dumped on the sharp bends. 1800 characters per story was my aim, and I didn’t exceed it by very much.
The short form is best, in my opinion – children can’t be bothered to read a couple of pages of description of the door that leads to Sleeping Beauty’s castle. My stories also begin and end abruptly: they invite the reader to imagine what happened before the start and what might happen after the end of the story.
Translated by Hildi Hawkins
Adalmiina’s life was not an easy one. Her parents decided to prepare her for her career as a princess when she was a little girl: when Adalmiina was three she was sent to ballet school, at four she started taking lute lessons and at five she went on a course in magic-mirror gazing.
When Adalmiina turned six, she received a giant suitcase full of princess clothes and shoes.
‘Put them on, darling, we want to see you in all your lovely beauty!’ her mother sparkled, waving a muslin veil.
‘I want to go to the jungle!’ Adalmiina demanded. ‘Without any clothes!’
‘Will we have to force you to dress in all your glory?’ her parents snapped.
‘You’ll have to catch me first!’ Adalmiina announced, running into the garden.
In the middle of the garden grew a spreading old oak. Adalmiina climbed into its branches. She jumped from branch to branch, sat down, swung her legs. When her exhausted parents dragged themselves under the tree with her heavy suitcase, Adalmiina swooped down to swing directly above their crowned heads.
‘Your arms will stretch like a monkey’s,’ her mummy sobbed.
‘We’ll sell you to a circus,’ her daddy threatened.
‘I can’t wait,’ Adalmiina laughed, hanging head down from a branch, like a bat.
‘This is the end of your princessing. No decent prince is going to let a monkey like you into his castle. We can get rid of all your fine dresses and your lute and ballet studies,’ her parents lamented.
‘And the mirror course,’ Adalmiina reminded them. ‘And I’m allowed to climb trees.’
Her parents had to admit that Adalmiina made a much better monkey than she did a princess. And because they really cared about her, they set the grand suitcase under the tree as padding so that Adalmiina would not hurt herself if she accidentally fell or a branch were to break beneath her.
You have to take good care not only of princesses and children, but also little monkeys.
Mimmi’s parents were building a palace. They thought only about gates and towers, and not at all about Mimmi. So Mimmi escaped with the first people who happened to wander past her future family castle. Mum was busy decorating the kitchen while Dad was just setting up the family crest in the courtyard, so neither of them even tried to stop their daughter.
The passers-by were pirates. They gave Mimmi an eye-patch, a tricorn hat and a sword and took her with them to sail the seas.
Mimmi liked the pirate life; it was fun. It was exciting to swish her sword and roar like a lion, although sometimes you also had to loot a merchant galleon. Treasure, and counting treasure, soon got boring. But one day, in the hold of a captured ship, they found a chest which did not contain gold or crown jewels – curled up inside the small treasure chest was a little weeping mermaid.
‘How dreadful!’ exclaimed Mimmi, quickly freeing the mermaid.
She was so weak and dried-out that Mimmi had to take her to the pirate ship to recover. The mermaid sat in the washbasin, ate empowering pearls and played draughts with Mimmi with gold and silver coins. The girls became inseparable friends. When it was time for the mermaid to return to the sea, both of them became very sad.
Luckily the pirate captain found on the horizon with his telescope a desert island and gave it to the girls as a present. The pirates built a cabin there, standing half in the water and half on dry land, so that the two friends could live under the same roof.
Mimmi and the mermaid live there still. They fish, eat coconuts and pineapple and play with the monkeys. And when the pirates come to visit, all of them dance on the beach, roaring for joy like lions and the mermaid splashes in her washbasin.
Sulo was not a very popular child. He did not get the main part in the school play. He did not win a single competition. And worst of all: he wasn’t always cheerful and good-humoured. It annoyed his parents, for they were perfect.
One day Sulo refused to smile and visitors and to perform the piece his mother Lempi had composed, I Am the Best. Instead, Sulo hid under the bed.
His parents dragged him into their fine car and drove to the Perfection Factory.
‘A faulty part for exchange.’ Sulo’s dad, Valio, lifted him onto the counter.
The assistant wrinkled his eyebrows:
‘This child’s warranty period is over. Take him to the Central Child Repair Shop.’
There was a queue at the Child Repair Shop. The reception clerk handed Sulo’s parents a catalogue, GREAT NEW FEATURES FOR YOUR CHILDREN and sat them down in a waiting room with a view straight into the repair shop.
The repairers unscrewed the children’s imperfect parts and replaced them with football feet, virtuoso fingers and angel-faces. Sulo’s parents followed this happily, wondering whether they should get Sulo wings or an engine, or perhaps both.
Sulo was appalled; he did not want to be a super-child. He wanted to go away, but instead he turned into a stick.
‘Wake up!’ Someone or something nudged him. It was hard to say who or what was speaking, because it changed all the time.
‘I’m Maryam, I’m running away from an operation to remove my chameleonism. Let’s get out of here. Pretend to be as perfect as you can and follow me.’
Sulo took a deep breath and marched after the chameleon girl out of the Child Repair Centre, as brashly as a peacock superman. But just round the corner Sulo was his own imperfect self again: he tripped on Maryam’s heels at the bus stop. The girl smiled broadly and Sulo felt nervous, as he’d never travelled by bus before.
The dinodonosaur Rororo was sleeping like a log in his warm cave. At least, until someone began to lick his snout.
‘Hey! I’m not food! I am the great fiery dinodonosaur!’ Rororo tried to shake the creature off, but it just giggled and bit him with its small, sharp teeth:
‘You sausage! Me Iii!’
Rororo was so badly startled that the strange creature dropped off his snout. Was this the frightening dinosaur told of in the dinodonosaurs’ old tales?
‘Are you a piranhosaur?’ Rororo was shaking with fright.
‘Me Iii,’ Iii declared stubbornly. ‘Me hungry. Me cold.’
Rororo sighed with relief. Of course Iii was hungry, otherwise it wouldn’t have even tried to eat the great fiery dinodonosaur! And it must be cold, it was completely naked and furless! Rororo gave Iii some grass and a winter overall and asked:
‘Where do you live?’
‘Here. Me sleep,’ Iii announced, making a nest in Rororo’s bed.
‘That’s my bed! My home!’ Rororo was angry. ‘Get out, you ungrateful marauder!’
Iii took off the overalls Rororo had lent it and plodded quietly out of the cave.
Nevertheless, Rororo had a slightly bad conscience. So bad that he didn’t even feel like playing.
Rororo went out for a walk. Iii was sitting outside the cave. When Rororo returned home, Iii was still sitting there. When Rororo went for a wee in the bushes at night, Iii was still sitting in the same place.
‘Why don’t you go home?’ Rororo wondered.
Iii’s mouth widened into a broad grin.
‘Home, home!’ it hollered, bouncing into the cave.
‘OK. You can live here with me,’ Rororo relented. ‘But you don’t eat me, is that clear?’
Iii nodded vigorously and soon fell asleep in Rororo’s bed. Rororo snorted and curled up around his new friend. Next day, Iii and Rororo gathered more hay, which they used to make the bed bigger, but at night they slept curled up together again.
Translated by Hildi Hawkins
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.
Salla Simukka’s Lumikki (‘Snow White’, Tammi) trilogy made history even before its final instalment was published in Finland. In the space of six months, translation rights for the series had been sold to 37 countries in fiercely contested auctions – a completely unprecedented scenario for a Finnish author. The crowning moment in a triumphant year arrived in December 2013, when the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture awarded Simukka the Finland Prize, which is granted each year in recognition of a significant artistic achievement or breakthrough.
The first volume in the Lumikki trilogy, Punainen kuin veri (‘As red as blood’), combines a traditional coming-of-age portrayal with a gripping thriller-style plot via the character of Lumikki Andersson, a traumatised school bullying victim. Salla Simukka has made innovative use of classic tales, currently popular in the international media landscape, in her narrative in a way that is capable of entertaining adult readers as well.
The first recipients of the Nordic Council’s brand-new prize for children’s and young people’s literature, worth €43,000, were Seita Vuorela and Jani Ikonen for their novel Karikko (‘The reef,’ WSOY, 2012). Like Salla Simukka’s trilogy, Vuorela and Ikonen’s novels show a conscious wish to appeal across artificially imposed boundaries between reader demographics. Both works specifically mention two target audiences on their back covers: young adults as well as adults.
Meanwhile, slight confusion arose among observers of the young adult book world when the nominations for the Finlandia Junior prize were announced: half of the nominated titles were not primarily children’s or young adult literature. Aapine (‘ABC’, Otava), a collection of poems with alphabet-based rhymes written by poet Heli Laaksonen in the south-western Finnish dialect, Marja Björk’s Poika (‘The boy’, Like), depicting the experiences of a transgender youth, and Vain pahaa unta (‘Just a bad dream’, Otava) by Aino & Ville Tietäväinen, about children’s nightmares, have all enjoyed more popularity among adults than children.
Even so, the attention paid to children’s and young adult books in the media has become more random and patchy. Traditional visits by authors – ‘travelling preachers’ – to promote books at various educational events and libraries, nurseries and schools have taken on greater importance in spreading the word about the wide variety on offer.
Finnish children’s and young adult writing has its finger on the pulse of the modern world even more firmly than before, providing keen-eyed reflections of today’s society. Fathers with busy careers feature in Isä vaihtaa vapaalle (‘Dad takes time off’, WSOY), a picture book by Jukka Laajarinne and Timo Mänttäri, as well as Meidän isä on hammaspeikko (‘Our Dad is the Tooth Troll’, Otava), the debut work by journalist Saska Saarikoski, who is the son of the well-known poet and translator Pentti Saarikoski. In each of these books, a father is willing to make compromises for the sake of the well-being of his family as a whole. Children’s books do indeed still promote ideals: by and large, not many fathers with young children make such sacrifices on behalf of their families in real life.
On the other hand, two works by Kreetta Onkeli – her children’s novel Poika joka menetti muistinsa (‘The boy who lost his memory,’ Otava) and Selityspakki (‘The answer kit’, Otava), a collection of little stories and explanations – ensure that kids also have access to no-nonsense information about the real world and contemporary society. Onkeli does not sugar-coat issues such as exhausted parents, social inequality and the effects of social exclusion.
Finnish educators monitored the results of the latest PISA survey carried out in OECD nations with concern. Finnish pupils’ previous world-beating performance was hanging in the balance. The largest Finnish publishers have dramatically reduced their output of children’s books for beginning readers: a very short-sighted strategy.
Translated by Ruth Urbom
The four Pixon brothers spend their time watching the telly and eating cereals and sweets. Their mother, in desperation, constantly demands that they go out and play, but they just don’t. The thin brothers’ teeth are bad as they have no vitamins in their blood: indeed they are as fit as 90-year-olds. One day the telly goes bust and the brothers end up in their neighbours’ home, where the two ladies cook them a good meal. They finally do go out and play – until the point of exhaustion: the story presents the reader with sinister turns à la Grimm brothers or Hoffmann, which the gloomy, dark pictures, suddenly devoid of colours, comically illustrate. But colours return to the pictures as well as to the brothers, who are now as fit as any 64-year old! This is the authors’ second book for children. Kivelä’s lesson takes the mickey out of didacticism but does not lose the point, so fun is had by all. Bondestam’s detailed, graphic pictures spice the story with amusing horror.
Kreetta Onkeli, better known for her books for adults, was awarded the 2013 Finlandia Junior award for this book. Arto is a schoolboy who loses his memory, but goes off in search of himself with an open mind. He meets a number of people who are outsiders in various ways and learns important lessons from each of them. Onkeli portrays a child of around 11 to 13 who is confused by many things. Researchers consider this age group to fall into an in-between area: there aren’t enough appealing activities on offer for kids of this age, who are treated as an awkward bunch both at home and at school. This book contains some rule-breakers: the boys eat at a restaurant buffet without paying and ride the subway without a ticket while other characters hint at forging official documents. Adult readers with their eyes closed to reality might consider Arto’s odyssey an anxiety-inducing vision of the future, in which grown-ups are not shown in a flattering light. Children, however, will get wrapped up in this absurd adventure.
The first children’s book by Alexandra Salmela, who has previously published a novel for adults, brings some sorely needed anarchy to Finnish storybooks. The 21 brief stories encourage children to add to them, whether by drawing, writing or out loud. Salmela’s tales are populated by trolls, dragons, knights and princesses, as well as ordinary children with silly parents. A boy called Ossi has two mums: Little Mum and Big Mum. One night, Little Mum collapses under the Tree of Exhaustion, but Ossi and his little sister hug their mum better. Allu’s absent-minded dad manages to mislay his head, and two perfect parents trade in their defective son Sulo at the child repair shop. The collage images by Slovakian illustrator Martina Matlovičová will work their way straight into your subconscious and start to bubble away.
Isä vaihtaa vapaalle is a picture book infused with wry humour which lends itself to both realistic and fanciful readings. In the story, a girl’s father is a secret agent. He’d like to reduce his working hours to spend more time with his daughter, but his employer has other ideas. This book provides an amusing reflection of its time: parents’ job titles often do not mean much to children, so their strange roles and the heavy briefcases parents lug home start to take on a life of their own in children’s minds. The story is free from clichés about gender roles and will entertain boys and girls alike. Timo Mänttäri, making his debut as a children’s book illustrator here, depicts fast-paced, dangerous situations and amusing details. The comic book-style narrative and large, double-page illustrations create suspense in this zippy story. The words and pictures are seamlessly integrated, and the not-overlong text is balanced by the exceptionally strong, expressive visuals.
The duo of Riitta Jalonen and Kristiina Louhi has come up with yet another well-rounded picture book trilogy. Aatos and Sofia are sensitive, independent preschoolers, each with a good imagination and the ability to savour fleeting moments. It is rare for children’s books to contain such a nuanced yet natural portrayal of companionship and devoted friendship between children. Sofia has her feet more firmly planted on the ground that Aatos, who is more prone to let his emotions run free. Sofia’s mum’s aerobics sessions are a fun contrast with the children’s slower-paced lifestyle, in which they hold on to individual moments. This book champions children’s free, creative play and their right to a long childhood. Kristiina Louhi’s illustration style is both traditional and extremely modern.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It 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.
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.
Novels for beginning readers often carry an indication of the publisher’s recommended age range on the front cover. This has led to confusion among young readers as well as library staff who recommend books to readers. The first decade of the 21st century was a time of upheaval in Finnish reading culture, with diagnoses of various reading disorders, more entertainment options competing for children’s attention and the increase in the number of children from immigrant backgrounds all putting new demands on children’s literature. Some boys aged 10 or over may still prefer short, pithy stories, but if those books carry a notice saying they are intended for 6- to 9-year-olds, boys older than that will refuse to touch them, even though they may well still be of interest otherwise (e.g. Ansu Kivekäs: Ykkösjätkät, ‘The No. 1 lads’, Tammi).
The Lukuinto (‘Joy of reading’) project is a three-year programme launched in the autumn of 2012 by Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture aimed at improving the reading and writing skills of children aged 6 to 16 and promoting reading for pleasure. The aims of the project include improving cooperation between schools and libraries by establishing operating models that develop reading and writing skills and promote a positive reading culture.
A number of writers already known as authors of books for adults made their first forays into children’s literature in the past year. Some of these names are Essi Kummu (author of Puhelias Elias, ‘Talkative Elias’, illustrated by Marika Maijala), Jarkko Tontti (author of children’s fantasy title Vedeeran taru,‘Vedeera’s tale’, Otava) and Juhani Känkänen (author of Hyvää huomenta, Apo Apponen!, ‘Good morning, Apo Apponen!’, Teos). Tontti’s book is a fresh addition to the fantasy genre, while Känkänen gives his picture book a comic book-style narrative.
Sci-fi/fantasy writing now appears to be taking over from realism in Finnish young adult literature. A number of authors who previously favoured realism (Salla Simukka, Laura Lähteenmäki, Anne Leinonen & Eija Lappalainen) have now turned their attention to dystopias, though the themes of independence and growth are still present in their new works. Supernatural romances with vampires and trolls are also making their presence felt in Finnish literature.
The timescale for book publishing is becoming even more squeezed wherever things can be speeded up. Salla Simukka’s dystopian novels Viimeiset (The last ones’, Tammi) and Jäljellä (‘Left behind’, Tammi) were published just a few months apart. Smaller intervals between publication dates are becoming more common with picture-book series as well.
Familiar heroes from children’s books are also conquering new age groups and media channels. The popular Heinähattu ja Vilttitossu (‘Hayhat and Fluffshoe’, illustrated by Markus Majaluoma, Tammi) series of children’s novels by the sisters Sinikka and Tiina Nopola has now been relaunched for picture-book readers: the idyllic village setting has been designed by Salla Savolainen. Timo Parvela’s novel Ella ja Äf Yksi (‘Ella and F One’, Tammi), part of his Ella series set in a primary school, reached the silver screen last year in a film version directed by Taneli Mustonen.
There is no sign of a downturn in the number of titles published. Publishers are focusing on fewer books in their advertising and marketing efforts, preferring to concentrate on guaranteed sales successes. The ranges stocked by bookstore chains are becoming more limited, and less space is devoted to reviews of literature for children and young adults in the media. Some young adult authors have already started making their own book trailer videos and marketing their books themselves in a variety of ways, as they can no longer count on their publishers to do it for them.
Translated by Ruth Urbom
[Sweet haven of nightmares]
[The Beggar Princess]
North End: Niskaan putoava taivas
[North End: Falling Sky]
Katarina von Numers-Ekman:
Maukka, Väykkä ja Karhu Murhinen
[Meowser, Barker and Killington Bear]
Onni-poika saa uuden ystävän
[Onni gets a new friend]
Gattonautti ja muita arkisatuja
[The cattonaut and other everyday tales]
Det vidunderliga ägget
[A most extraordinary egg]
Mila Teräs & Karoliina Pertamo:
Elli ja tuttisuu
[Elli and the dummy]
Esko-Pekka Tiitinen & Nikolai Tiitinen:
Jätti ja jänöset
[The giant and the bunnies]
The new Elli series of picture books continues the tradition in Finnish children’s literature of giving an idyllic portrayal of the natural world: even a small child and her parents have time to marvel at nature together. In reality, more and more children are becoming estranged from their natural surroundings. Elli is an energetic little two-year-old whose mother encourages her to give away her beloved dummy (pacifier) to a young squirrel in the garden. This book tells a typical story about everyday life that will reinforce children’s self-esteem and sense of identity, but fortunately Elli is also allowed to be a little girl who needs looking after by her parents. Our performance-obsessed society expects nearly superhuman effort and skills even from children, so it is important that kids are allowed to be kids – in children’s literature, at least. Karoliina Pertamo’s illustrations glow with warm, invigorating colours. Pertamo (b. 1971) has quickly established a highly individual illustration style for herself.
Translated by Ruth Urbom