Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas is almost here, Apo Apponen!

Juhani Känkänen 2013: Joulu on jo ovella, Apu Apponen!

Apo is a small boy anxiously waiting for Christmas. Is is Christmas already? Is it? What about now?

When first snow falls, Apo is ready to go sledding, but there is not enough snow.

I wonder if there are any Finnish families, where the kids do not wait for Christmas. Is it the parents fault that they have taught the kids to look forward to having presents?

The book is illustrated in a comic book fashion and it looks good and the mood of Apo is well portraited.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The wonderful Christmas of Tatu and Patu

Aino Havukainen and Sami Toivonen 2015: Tatun ja Patun ihmeellinen joulu

The Oddwille boys are back causing mayhem. They have been inveted to their friend's, Veera's,  house  for Christmas. Naturally, everything goes wrong from the start, when the boys accidently end up in the neighbour's house, while they are on vacation for the Holidays.

Tatu and Patu are not that familiar with the Christmas traditions,  but they seem to get it all wrong. Luckily the book has a happy ending they all have a lovely Christmas.

At the bottom left picture is illustrated
how the baking really looks like
The Best part of the book is comparing, what the boys imagined the Christmas would be like and then the reality. For example the baking seldom is as idyllic as it seems in the books. And even though there is a big mess, baking is fun.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Finnish elves for all seasons

Kirsi Manninen 2012: Tontun vuosi
photographs by Aki Paavola
English translation Malcolm Hicks

This book has also been published in English.
These elves live in Tyynelä. They show us what elves do, when it is not Christmas time.

The Finnish elf is the protector of the forrest and animals and some take part in the human activites in the household chores.  The elves cultivate hay and celebrate Kekri, the Finnish Halloween.

The elves harvestin

The book also includes old recepies for all seasons from Shrovetide pea soup to Christmas porrigde and potato casserole.

The book is illustrated with lovely photographs, which sometimes look very Swedish to me. But most of the Finnish Christmas traditions come from Sweden.
Christmas at Tyynelä

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas poems of the Finnish Children

Edited by Ismo Loivamaa 2015: Suomen lasten joulurunot
illustrations by Rudolf Koivu

The book includes old Finnish Christmas poems and some new. Most of the poems I recognize as Christmas song that we have been singing as long as I can remember.

At the end of the book is told how the poems have changed their emphasis over the years form religious and patriotic to warmth and nearness.

Elved preparing for Christmas (Rudolf Koivu)
The illustrations are by Rudolf Koivu and in my eyes are very nostalgic.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christmas at Dollhouse Väinölä

Maria Malmström 2015: Nukkekoti Väinölän joulu

Dollhouse Väinölä is getting ready for Christmas. They make the traditional Christmas treats out of polymer and they look delicious!

Maria Malmström also makes Christmas decorations, my favourite is a miniature cross of Thomas, Tuomaan risti.  She also makes elves, Christmas tree, straw stars and even a engel bell.

For gifts there are instructions how to make a Star of Africa, a tradiotional Finnish board game, rocking horse, sled, doll,  Reino slipprs.

Tuomaan risti (Cross of Thomas)
The photos in this book are full of details and the instrucktions are simple enough for even me to follow. If only I had the patience.

This is the book to read, if you are looking for the Christmas spirit, even if you are not into crafts. Sometimes I forget that I was reading about a doll house and when it hit me, I was facinated how detailed everything was even though they were teeny tiny.

Dollbouse Christmas presents.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

24 steps to Christmas

Kaisa & Aleksi Kuokka 2013: 24 askelta jouluun

This  book is not a Children's book, but it is a good book to get into the Christmas spirit. It may be too much for trying to do all the book has instructions for, but you can start with some this year and then some more next year.

The book combines the traditional elements of Christmas, like Himmeli a traditional Christmas decoration with some more modern cuisine such as Spanish appertizers.

I have tried making a Himmeli but the straws split very easily, in this book they make it look really easy.

The book is illustrated with lovely pictures of the different foods and crafts.

Traditional straw decoration
The book also gives advise how wrapp gifts. I am not very good at that and this book didn't help me at all. I usually go to Pentik to see how the girls there wrap anything in a beautiful way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Summer at Doghill

Mauri Kunnas 2015: Kesä Koiramäessä

The Doghill kids are waiting anxiously for summer. The watch the different signs of it including swallows. This summer they have a visitor from the city to spend the whole summer with them.

This book continues the story of the Doghill farm. The Doghill folk show us, what kind of summer activities people used to have in the 19th century.

I can practically hear the birds,  taste the wild straberrys, smell the flowers and feel the waves in my toes. The hail in book reminded me of the hail storms when I was a child.

Bonfire of Whitsuntide
Why coudn't the school books be as much fun as this book? I bet my boys learned something of the Finnish history and customs easily.  This is also s great book to read in the darkness of November.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The knights of the Baltic Sea

Karin Henriksson 2012: Itämeren ritarit
illustrated by Harri Tarkka

Aino Ahven (perch), Harri Hauki (pike) and Kaisa Kampela (flounder) are eager pupils. Today they learn about scary things called humans.

The teacher tells them that humans are polluting their homes and force everyone to move. Aino, Harri and Kaisa want to talk some sense to the humans. Teacher  advises them to see Granpa Seal, who knows magis since he once was in the circus.
Aino, Harri and Kaisa meet Granpa Seal and get the ability to talk to humans. They swim to shore and meet some kids. The kids promise to do everything in their power to stop the polluting.

Very educational book about the poor condition of the Baltic Sea. When Kaisa and Harri are too deep in the dead part of the sea, it actually feels lifeless. The illustrations are that good. The importance of human action is greatly emphasised.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Welcome to Rauhala

Jenni Kirves 2015: Tervetuloa Rauhalaan
illustrated by Annika Hiltunen

Toivo is a small boy, who's parents have been fighting several days. Toivo feels horrible and hides in the attic.  All of a sudden the stairs start to grow and take Toivo to Rauhala, where the flowers are more colorful and the water sparkles brighter.  Toivo would like to stay, but in the same time he misses his parents. He's only wish is that they would not fight so much.

Rauha also shows what happens after death.

Toivo means Hope and I have been trying to figure out, what it means that it is masculine in the Finnish language and feminine in the English language. We also have a female name Rauha, which means peace and masculine name Usko (Faith).  Maybe it does not mean anything.

This book is very colorful and without any religious pathos, is very reassuring. It also teaches us adults to think about our own actions from the child's point of view.

Some one once said that the parents everyday is the child's childhood. What kind of childhood do want our children to have? It has given me a new perspective on my every day activities.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Day at the Korkeasaari zoo

Katariina Heilala 2015: Päivä Korkeasaaressa
illustrated by Juha Hämäläinen
photos Korkeasaari archive

I am not a big fan of zoos. I do understand their usefulness as restoring animal, but it still sometimes makes me real sad to see the animals in cages.

If you're going to the Korkeasaari zoo, you should read this book. The book is full of wonderful pictures of the animals in the zoo. And there is a lot of information about the rare animals and how they come to the zoo.

The basic story is Grandmother taking Jade and Jonas to the zoo.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Lossi-Lasse and the secrets of the seas

Anssi Keränen 2015: Lossi-Lasse ja merten salaisuudet

Lossi-Lasse is a seagull and a proud captain of Lindy Hop -ship. He takes Ekku and Nelli to see the seas.

On their journey, they meet dolfins, help a shipwrecked monkey and clean beaches.

The illustrations are clear and the message is getting across loud and clear: we have to save the seas. But not in a preaching way, but more subtle.

Where as the Pirate of the Fog Island focused on saving the Baltic Sea, Lossi-Lasse's interest is in the bigger seas.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tracking Nature - guide to youths.

Iiris Kalliola 2011: Luonnon jäljillä, luonto-opas nuorille

What happens underneath the snow or when the birds are migrating?

This book introduces the diversity of Finnish nature from the beaches to the primeval forests. The book shows what kind of life can be found in the sand, where we do not see.

The book shows many things people do not see: like a wolverine eating a carrion. Modern people seem to be out of touch with nature. For a safe and clean encounter with the nature this book serves its purpose. I hope it has inspired people to go out to the lakes, forest and fields to look at nature as first hand experience.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Secret Mushroombook, the lost notes of Professor Fungus

Julia Savtchenko 2014: Salainen sienikirja : professori Funguksen kadonneet muistiinpanot

Professor Cornelius Fungus is exploring the fascinating world of fungus with Mrs. Rimosa.  Together they find all kinds of intriguing mushrooms.

The book is a fictional "encyclopedia" that my boys found very interesting. Although I had to tell them that these kind of mushrooms do not really exist.

My favorite is the fancycollar mushroom which only appears in garden parties. Professor Fungus and Mrs. Rimosa had to throw garden parties in three different nights before this beauty appeared.  This mushroom grows in places, where it can sense the party atmosphere the best.

Boys favorite was the woolly milkcap with teeth (karvarousku in Finnish). It almost looks like the real thing, but has teeth.

The book is mysterious and fun. Besides all Finns a some point of theirlives pick mushrooms in the forest.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Otso and the toe eaters

Anja Portin 2015: Otso ja varpaansyöjät
illustrations by Timo Mänttäri

Otso is staying at his grandmothers and they have fish for dinner. Grandma tells Otso about the food chain: a krill eats plankton, a herring eats krill, a cod eats herring and human eats cod.

This starts to bother Otso: what will eat him? He tries to apply this theory: a bug that will be eaten by his soft toy, which then will be eaten by Grandma's cat. Then Otso will eat the cat and Grandma will eat Otso. Because Grandma's must be at the top of the food chain. Grandma laughs at him and the bug runs away and the cat couldn't care less.

Otso starts to imagine the creatures that will come and eat him.  Do they have bellybuttons? Will they use knife and fork? He can't sleep. Back at home dad reminds him about his name: Otso is a nickname to bear. That relieves Otso and he no longer is scared.

I guess it is universal that kids are afraid of bogeymen. And usually the fear is triggered by the strangest things.  I like the illustrations of this book and how Grandma's house really looks like Grandma's house.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Day at Linnanmäki: the most fun quarter of Helsinki

Katariina Heilala 2015: Päivä Linnanmäellä: "Helsingin hauskin kaupunginosa"
photographs by Teemu Ullgrén
illustrations by Päivi Arenius

To some people Linnanmäki is the only real amusement park in Finland. This book tells about the different rides from the Carousel to the rollercoaster.

The book is full of colorful photos and stories of people visiting the park. I did not know that underneath the roller coaster is a secret garden growing apples and other fruit.

When I was a teenager the best ride was the wooden roller coaster. I still don't know if  the speed of the ride or the fact that I was a afraid the wooden beams would break was the most exciting. Or maybe it was the cutest guys (Jarrumies) operating the cars. It turns out that I was not the only on after the guys of Vuoristorata. In this book many women tell that the only reason they came to Linnanmäki was the guys of the wooden roller coaster, which was built in 1951.

There is really no comparison between the huge modern day amusement park, Linnanmäki feels like a museum, but that is part of it's charm. It is also run by a charity Children's Day Foundation, which supports the wellfare of Finnish children.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Janne from Hämeenlinna: How Janne became Jean Sibelius

Tapani Bagge 2015: Hämeenlinnan Janne: kuinka Jannesta tuli Jean Sibelius
illustrated by Salla Savolainen

Young master Janne has a very powerful imagination. He lives with his mother, aunts and grandma in Hämeenlinna.

The story tells about Jean Sibelius's early years in Hämeenlinna, which at the time was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Finland.

Janne tells about his childhood, which resembles Astrid Lindgren's Emil i Lönneberga. Among other things, he tells his aunts piano student not to come to lessons so often that they obeyed. Janne had an absolute pitch and the practising kids really hurt him.

The Russian soldiers at Hämeenlinna.
In Jean Sibelius's childhood, most people he knew, spoke Swedish. He started at a Swedish school, but changed to a Finnish school.

Janne and his friends live for music. The book ends, when on his grandmothers orders, Janne moves to Helsinki to study law.

The illustrations are very lifelike. The sadness of Janne's death is portrayed with a black swan the magnitude of Janne's imagination by a giant cat fish.

Map of Hämeenlinna when Jean Sibelius was a child.
All important places of Jean Sibelius in Hämeelinna.
This year i a jubilee of  150 years of Jean Sibelius's birth.  I really enjoyed Katri Kirkkopelto's Melody Forest, which was very artistic and had fabulous illustrations. This book is about the same topic, but focuses only in the childhood of Jean Sibelius. My six year old son was not interested in Melody Forest, but this book he wanted to read.

The book even tells where the name Jean came from. Very informative, I learned a lot about the 1860s in Hämeenlinna, different instruments and Jean Sibelius. I guess to Finnish children Jean Sibelius is a serious person, but this book makes him more approachable. More books like this, please.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hello Ruby - adventures in coding

Linda Liukas 2015

Book about programming. Ruby is a little girl with a massive imagination. She is somewhat cheeky: she leaves the pajamas on, when dad tells her to put on school clothes: he did not tell her to take off the pajamas first. (Lucky dad, who wouldn't want  a kid who needs specific instructions to do every day chores?)

One day dad hides Ruby five treasures. She is all excited. But first she has to find the clues. The clues tell that snow leopard lives in the mountains, penguins do not live in houses, foxes live 100 x 4 steps away from the snow leopard. Ruby draws a map and off she goes.

Programming can be seen throughout the book: in Ruby's hints to find the treasures as well as Ruby directing the foxes to be more efficient in their garden.

The kids may like it, but the target audience are the adults: the resistance to program does not come from the kids, but from their parents.  The book has great examples of how repeating something can create larger entities.

The book also includes exercises that help children to think in programming mode. It is not hard if you practice it.

Programming is taught in Finnish comprehensive school, but there is again a heated discussion, why girls are not interested in programming. Programming is considered a mathematical skill. But why? Aren't they programming LANGUAGES? A smart marketing person should take this and redo the programming image. Kids shouldn't be labeled with mathematical skills and language skills. Anybody can learn anything if they just put time and effort to it. Just make it interesting.

Friday, July 31, 2015

How the elk got its antlers

Sari Kanala: Kuinka hirvi sai sarvensa
photos by Hannu Ahonen
water color illustrations Iida Pihl

Story about elk, bear and a fairy.

Elk and bear are good friends. One day a fairy comes with large antlers and offers them to the elk and the bear. The bear wants them. He is the king of the forest after all. The elk doesn't mind.

Summer passes along and the antlers give bear a lot of trouble: he cannot eat berries or catch fish with them. He is almost starving and he calls for the elk and offers the antlers to him. The fairy takes the antlers off the bear and gives them to the elk.

The lesson of this story is that you don't have to have everything. Sometimes you are better off without gigantic antlers. Let the elk have them.

The book is illustrated by photographs and watercolors. The photos have be "photoshopped" so that the elk, the girl (ie the fairy) and the bear can all be peacefully side by side. This book also has the text both in Finnish and in English.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fabulous Light houses

The cover demonstrates the diversity
of the lighthouses
Mika Myllyneva 2012: Mainiot majakat

I have never visited any of the lighthouses in this book. I have seen the Suomenlinna Chuch, which is used as a lighthouse. But the names of the light houses I have heard many times in the radio, where they tell the marine weather. 

A few summers back, my parents spend a night at the Bengtskär lighthouse. It looks nice, but my father was complaining that there was nothing to do.

 In the map (the picture below), you can see that Märket is really close to Sweden. It is actually divided by the boarder between Sweden and Finland.

 The beginning of the book confused me a little, when they talked about valomajakka (literal translation light-lighthouse). I was thinking can there be a light house without a light. Actually there can, the early lighthouses were ID lighthouses without light.  I learned something new again by reading a "kids book".

The lighthouses on a map
The content of the book:

Early lighthouses
Finnish lighthouses
Bogaskär hard luck light house
Jussarö wreck cemetary
Many turns of Tiiskeri
Tankar the light house of oddities
Gustavsvärn from fortress ruins into a lighthouse
Bengtskär the mother of all light houses
Isokari almost got blown up
The light houses of Helsinki
Utö the first  light lighthouse
Märket between two countries

Bengtskär the mother of all lighthouses

Pekka Väisänen also wrote about the Finnish lighthouses for the Finnish Embassy in London.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tales from the old church

Sari Kanala 2007
English translation Tony Melville
watercolor illustrations by Iida Pihl
Photographs by Ismo Hannula and Simo Peteri

Tales from the Old Church of Petäjävesi.
The stories tell about an elf, who rings the bells at night, micshievous crows that learn a lesson and the church getting ready for Christmas.

The illustrations are photograhps that have watercolor elements in it. Sometimes it is really hard to tell apart the watercolor from the actual photo. The old church has a fairy tale charm to it.

We Finns take our wood seriously.  Stones were used scaresly since they were so expensive. And so we made our churches from wood. This wooden church is part of the World Heritage Covention.

When I visit the grand churches of Europe, I always wonder how much money was spent on them. How many people could have been fed or educated with that money? On the other hand, I admire them and am very glad that they still exist and that they are not torn down because of some idealism.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Day of magic

Kaisa Järnefelt 2014: Taikapäivä
illustrated by Riikka Jäntti

Maaria is spending time with her grandparents' house. She has imaginery friends: a horse named Rhubarb. With it Maaria attends summer wedding where many couples get married, also a frog marries a mouse.

It is magical to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma is baking pastries and Grandpa can be mistaken for a sleuth, but he also takes Maaria fishing.

Grandma's red cottage

The book also includes short poems, including an ode to Grandma's cottage and the sleuth lying in the hammock.

My Grandma used to live in a red cottage like here in this book and she always had some pastries, such as the korvapuusti for us kids.  My mother makes the best korvapuusti in the world and my boys love them (as do their dad and everyone, who has ever tasted them).

Grandma baking lots and lots of sweet rolls.

I never had such an imagination as Maaria here in this book. But just a while ago my father came indoors with a spoon. He had found it near a big stone. I admitted that it must have been mine, because as a child I had thought that stone was a sacrificial stone and I had wanted to dig around it. (At the time I wanted to be an archaeologist.) Needless to say, my concentration was lost before I got through the weeds.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Melody forest : in the footsteps of Jean Sibelius

Katri Kirkkopelto 2015: Soiva metsä Sibeliuksen matkassa

"Music is like a butterfly. If you hold it in the palm of your hand, turning it this way and that, inspecting it, its wings will lose their shine. It will still fly, but will no longer shimmer as it did before."

Jean Sibelius tells this to his grandchild, who is visiting him and Aino Sibelius.

Aino Sibelius tells the child about Jean or familiarly Janne. The book is beautifully illustrated. Most illustrations are from Finnish nature.

Jean Sibelius in Ainola with his grandchild
The book comes with a CD, which was recorded in Ainola by cellist Jussi Makkonen and pianist Nazig Azezian. The play some of Sibelius' most universally loved compositions, my favorites Finlandia and Valse Triste.   Finlandia gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

Aino and Jean Sibelius on their honeymoon in Pielijärvi

Jean Sibelius was born 150 years ago and he is buried in Ainola, his home. Ainola is still open for visits.

This book has been published in Finnish, Swedish and English.