Friday, November 28, 2014

Stories from Bugland

Ville Hytönen 2014: Ötökkämaan tarinat
illustrated by Virpi Penna

Seven stories about bugs.

Läntti ja Likakasa  (Spot and PileOfDirt)
Läntti and Likakasa are an odd couple, both are very dirty and like leeks because of their strong smell. The filthy friends live together and when guests come over, they always sit above wind so the stench isn’t so bad. Family Harjumaa come with clothespins in their noses and wonder why Läntti and Likakasa never bathe and never wash their clothes. Lika asks them why to change clothes when they get dirty again soon.

Läntti’s clothes are ancient and filled with bugs that are extinct. One day Likakasa’s hat and Läntti’s shirt disappear. Läntti and Likakasa search everywhere but cannot find them. Suddenly they see Family Harjumaa, the dad waring Likakasa’s hat and the mother wearing Läntti’s shirt. Dad appologises they just wanted to know what it felt like to be dirty: it is relaxing. Läntti is philosophical: in order to be clean, one must know what it is like to be dirty.

Old Tuikka (Vanha Tuikka) 
Old Tuikka is very old and very grumpy. He is almost a month old. Old Tuikka chases Hämämäkämäkki away, tells Kiippu Käppänen that some one should teach him some manners, Vaaksiainen looks messy and in Old Tuikka’s opinion Ippu Pötökkä only idles his time away. Old Tuikka shouts his opinion to everyone about their flaws. The others decide to throw a party, maybe that will change Old Tuikka’s mood. They have food, decoration and drinks, but they forgot music. Old Tuikka arrives and berates everyone. Then the others tell him that they do not have any music. Old Tuikka says he sung when he was younger. Soon the evening is filled with music. Tuikka is joyful and looks happy, which makes the others happy, too.

Old Tuikka sings a song about to filthy Friends 

Small bug called Ippu Pötökkä 
A small girl names him (or her the name doesn’t tell and Ippu could be a boy’s or a girl’s name) just before she falls asleep. Ippu becomes obsessed to do something grand after previously he was a small bug, but now he is Ippu Pötökkä (The name comes from Pikku Ötökkä, a small bug, but people tend to mix up letters evey once in a while). If you have a name, you have to be important. Ippu flies around the room and finds a small banana, which looks like it could use some water. Ippu is too small to lift the water can so he decides to find help. He finds an old Raisin at the cupboard and the old Raisin tells him to find the small bugs at the red paper basket. There live the big flies that tell Ippu to search for the small bugs under the lampshade. But there lives a Vaaksiainen, who tell Ippu that the small bugs live on the banana leaves.

Ippu finds them and they say that they like the banana just the way it is, a little wilted. Ippu understands that he is a small bug too, whose life is spent wondering about his name. He decides to live on the leaf with the other small bugs.

Hämämäkämäkki is a spider (hämähäkki in Finnish) who does not have any bugs in her net (in the picture Hämämäkämäkki is drawn as a girl) She is hungry and annoyed. Actually she does not want to eat other bugs, they are lovely company. Nonetheless Hämämäkähäkki has been taught that she must eat other bugs. She tried once: apologized and tried to swallow the bug whole. She felt bad.
Now a Äkämäkätkökääriänen (a moth) gets tangled in her web. The moth asks her not to eat him. He is expected at home for dinner. The moth suggests something else Hämämäkämäkki could eat. She is delighted: needles are her new favorite food. From then on she throws great parties with web swings.

The best Punkeri in the forest 
Punkeri’s job is hard: it punkers all the time and no one understands what he does. So Punkeri must punker all alone. Punkeri tries to show others what it is that he does, but others think it doesn’t make any sense. Jäärä (a beetle that also means a stubborn person in Finnish) tries to comfort him: nobody knows what Jäärä does either. Punkeri knows: Jäärä eats log houses. Jäärä corrects him: he is a baker. They spend some time together and it turns out that punkering fits well with baking. Together they make wonderful treats for everyone.

Kirppujen yö runo (the night of the fleas poem)

Kippu Käpänen and thousand sailors 
Kippu Käpänen is walking to the lake. He is the nicest and fairest of all bugs. He drinks from the lake ans sees a bark boat coming his direction. The boat is full of ants. The ants want to know what he is doing at their beach. Kippu does not understand how the shore is theirs, the shores are public places. The ants start to talk amongst themselves and try to figure out what to do. Their greenflies need a place to pasture. Kippu tells them ther is plenty of room for everyone at the beach. Kemppi arrives and says the beach is his. Kippu Käpänen suggest that the beach is public so that every one can enjoy it. Others agree.

Merenkäynnin hurja runo (The Poem of the fierce heave of the sea)

Herra Pöntinen (Mr. Pöntinen)
 Mr. Pöntinen is not a bug but a small man, who dressed like a gentleman. All bugs in the forest come to see him. He tells them that he is going to write a book about the bugs. The bugs have many talents that only few humans have. Tuikka learned how to calm his meanness with singing, Pukeri is proud of his profession event though others don’t understand. Kippu knows how to negotiate and settle things so that every one is happy. Läntti and Likakasa understand that hypocrite tidiness isn’t the most important thing in life. Ippu Pötökkä is important even if he is small. Every bug gets praised . Mr. Pöntinen wants humans to learn to live beautiful and peaceful lives.

 The stories are great except the last which is too much teaching. Kids are smart and I think they get the point even though it isn’t written out. The most amazing thing is that the bug with the most ridiculous name (Äkämäkätkökääriänen) is an actual bug species. I guess the most creative people work in biology coming up with names like this.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Veka whizzes

Anne Kalliola 2006: Veka viilettää
illustrated by Ilkka Ruokola

Veka is a small bird who always flies as fast as he can. One day he is outflown by a common swift. Veka is really upset: he is not the fastest.

An Uncle Crow tries to teach him to fly slower. At first Veka is afraid he will drop. He is not used to flying so slow. Uncle Crow shows him the dots of a lady bird and to notice berries at th edge of the forest.

Veka even saves a small bird from drowining, when he is flying slower.

The illustrations are so lifelike that the speed of Veka makes me almost out of breath. The book also describes the Finnish summer at its best.

The story is a great lesson for all of us not to fly so fast all the time.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Messi and Mystery Everything will be all right

Ninka Reittu 2013: Messi ja mysteeri: kaikki järjestyy!

The Ylä-Kattinen family are going to visit Grandma by train. The middle kitten Messi is often in his/her (again we do not know if Messi is a boy or a girl, because of the pronoun "hän" that can be used for both. I'll use he for clarity) own thoughts and gets into the wrong train. At first he panics, but then he meets  Mystery, who promises to take Messi to Grandma's.

All of a sudden Messi hears two dogs talking about kidnapping and a lighthouse. A little detective in Messi wakes up and he peaks to see who is talking. The dogs notice him and start chasing him.

Messi and Mystery run and run until they reach market place, where a sales woman drops pies for them to eat. Both fall asleep on the pier. A seal wakes them up and tells them, he knows where the lighthouse is and takes them there.

At the lighthouse the dogs are guarding it. Messi and Mystery run the lighthouse stairs all the way to the top, where they meet a blue cat, who is cooking for the dogs.
The dogs laugh at the kidnapping story: the blue cat is their friend. The blue cat leaves with Messi and Mystery. The swallows take a message to Grandma that Messi is coming.

Messi's parents are waiting for him at the railway station. And everybody is happy to see him. Mystery is vanished and left Messi a message that they will see again.

This is a first book about Messi and Mystery.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reindeer with silver antlers

Leena Laulajainen: Hopeasarvinen poro, satuja Lapista 2014
Illustrated by Virpi Penna
Previously published in Taikarumpu (1980), Vesilinnun sydän (1983) and Aurinkolintu ja Kaamoksen korppi (2000)

The magic of Lapland wrapped in fairytales. The stories tell about the fight of darkness and light, the way people live side by side with nature.

 How the blue throat brought daylight to Lapland The blue throat has nested in Lapland but then it starts to get dark and she has to get food. The bird asks Couvgan, the spirit of day, to push aside the wing of the polar night (kaamos) ja warm the eggs. Couvgan sends sparks to Kaamos’s cape. Kaamos runs away but comes back again. Ever since Couvgan and Kaamos figth with eatch other.

Ulda and Ailigas meet
Avvil and Aanar 
Aanar is Avvil’s baby girl. Avvil has many chores and she leaves Aanar crying many times. A friendly gnome Udda picks the girl and takes her away. Avvil is desperate and promises to do anything to find her. Aanar grows up and returns. But she doesn’t know her mother. She gets thirsty and her mother turns into a spring so her daughter can drink. Aanar drinks and drinks and turns into Lake Inari. Avvil is river Ivalo.

Neljän tuulen lakki (The four wind hat) 
The warm southern wind melts the snow and gets the leafs to peak out of their shells. Then the northern wind blows ice cold and covers the land with snow and ice. Then mean east wind tears the flows up just when they have opened up and then the mild west wind only finds hey shivering in the cold. The worst is when all four come up the mountain and cause a storm. The animals and people start to move away.

 The witch Calaoaivi sees this and gets mad. He climbs up the hill with his drum and sings an invitation to the winds, which can’t resist. The winds arrives and Calaoaivi continues to sing. The winds fall asleep. The witch collects the winds into his cap and takes them home. When the winds wake up they start stroming in the cap. But the cap is so strong, it won’t break. It only shapes into four different peaks so from above it resembles a star. Calaoaivi promises to let the winds out, if they do not fight any more. Each wind will blow from their own cardinal points.

The other stories in the book:
Hopeasarvinen poro (Reindeer with silver antlers)
Sininen Hirvi (The blue moose)
Sateenkaari (Rainbow)
Aletta ja vedenhaltijan (Aletta and the water sprite)
Riekonmarjat (Willow grouse berries)
Auringon peura (The deer of the sun)
Tunturin tuuli (the wind in the Lapland mountain)
Tuulisolmut (Wind knots)
Sarringin kosijat (the suitors of Sarring
Avza Sadesilmä (Avza the Rain eye)
Skipagurran kuu (The moon of Skipagurra)
Ulda ja Ailigas( Ulda and Ailigas)
Vesilinnun sydän (The heart of the Waterbird)
Aurinkolintu ja Kaamoksen korppi (The sunbird and the crow of Polar nights)

The saami culture is not that familiar to me and therefore it was fascinating to read stories of the saami culture. When I was in comprehensive school (back in the 1980s) the Lapplander culture was mentioned maybe once. Nowadays there are news and one children's program on TV. I aslo heard that they are trying to get a saami school in Helsinki, so those who move south from Lapland won't forget their hertage. At one point saami wasn't taught in school. It is sad that we talk and talk about the rights of the swedish speaking people in Finland and how Swedish must be taught in schools. Nobody is demanding saami to be an obligatory language in schools. One reason given for Swedish language education is the business possibilites in the Nordic countries. Money talks. What would the business opportunites with the saami people?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

King's road - a journey from history to present day

Janne Haikari: Kuninkaantie - matka historiasta nykypäivään 2014
illustrated by Carlos Da Cruz

King's road is a historic postal route that has many stories. The main character, a small boy Vertti is very interested in history.He travels from Åland islands to Vyborg.

The book has fifteen sections that introduce different themes in the different regions of the road. The themes cover development of communication, industry, education and energy production just to mention few.

The book has colorful illustrations and the information is divided into small boxes.

How information is shared in history is told in the spread
that covers King's road from Piikkiö to Salo.
Kuninkaantie is a road that leads from Bergen, Norway to St. Petersburg, Russia. In Finland it starts from Ahvenanmaa and ends to the east boarder Vaalimaa.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mimmit and the folks of water

Pauliina Lerche: Mimmit ja veden väki 2014
illustrated by Meri Mort

Fourth book to the Mimmit Series.  The others already covered autumn, winter and spring so now is summer's turn.

The story starts when the girls (Mimmit) rescue a ringed seal cub from a fishing net. To show his apreciation, the grandpa ringed seal turns the girls to small fishes.

As fishes the girls dive into the lake and meet a meermaid Malanja, who is lost and wants to go back to the seal. The girls help her and meet all kinds of creatures in the lake.

Mimmit swim as fish with mermaid Malanja.
Mimmit can also bee seen in Mimmikoto childredrens program Mimmikoto.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Father shifts gears

Jukka Laajarinne 2013: Isä vaihtaa vapaalle
illustrations: Timo Mänttäri

Fathers' day is celebrated in Finland on the second Sunday in November. This inspired me to find a book about dads.

In this book little girl Puolukka (Cranberry) asks her parents to spend time with her. Her father is an agent and decides to quit his job.

Together they take the car and drive to the country side. They sleep under a spruce and enjoy life. Then dad says they are running out of money and they have to get back.

He returns to his old job, but only for part time. He still gets to spend more time with his daughter.

 The illustrations remind me of advertisements made in the 1960s. Some of the spreads are made in a comic book style.

There has been talk about increasing the workweek, but considering the unemployment rate, shouldn't it be decreased? If everyone worked 30 hours a week, wouldn't there be more work available?

This book is a great exaple of men, too, wanting to spend more time with their kids.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Brave little Memmuli

Mervi Lindman 2005

Memmuli is a brave little girl. She just doesn't know that. She is afraid to go to the toilet, because she heard that crocodiles live there. She is afraid to eat, because her dad said that the food takes his tongue with it (strange Finnish saying when the food is so good "vie kielen mennessään).

At night Memmuli is afraid of the shadows. Everyone tells her that she is a big girl now, she shouldn't be afraid. But she is. Then she dreams about being small.

Memmuli in a forest
Luckily Mom is there and she explains, what it really means to be brave. It means that you acknowledge  that you are afraid.

The illustrations are full of detail and they support the story very well.