Thursday, January 29, 2015

National treasure: Finnhorse

Sanna Karppinen & Marianne Ketelimäki 2014: Kansallisaarteemme Suomenhevonen

While others treasure gold and dimonds, we here in Finland treasure old domestic animals. Sheep, cows, hen, goats, dogs have all their own breeds that are valued nowadays. They are part of our cultural heritage.

This book is about one national breed: the Finnhorse. The horses were bred in different lines, but the main reason was to have a working horse that could help in the fields in spring, summer and fall and in the forest in winter.

The pictures take the leading role, but the book is very informative as well.

I am not a borse person at all, but after reading this book I understand the horse enthusiast a little bit better.

More about Finnhorse at Suomenhevosliitto, the Kansallisaarteemme Suomenhevonen Facebook page and Hippos.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ghost stories of Grandpa Elf

Eero Ojanen 2008: Tonttuvaarin kummitustarinoita
illustrated by Ari Jokinen

Old ghost stories told by a Grandpa Elf. He tells in the book stories that happened somewhere else. Where he lives, nothing ever happens.

The atmosphere is created by the first story, where someone is breathing in your neck. Then a barn is haunted by a horse and the cudgel of death.

Then Granpa Elf tells a story about a horrible rider, who has been seen to ride toward the manor.

The story of the guards of the treasure can be also read in the Mauri Kunnas: Tales from Doghill.

Ghosts' Christmasparty
The story of the strict landowner tells what happens, when you do not treat others so nice. When he died, his body couldn’t be carried into the church: the doors wouldn’t open.

At the border of two villages is haunted by someone, who moved the border posts. Someone hear whining. They find a body, it is buried and the whining stops. One hears clinking and they find stolen property.

 At a dangerous cross roads white lady keeps asking not to leave her.

At Chirstmas the deceased celebrate at the church. When the dawn comes, the church is empty.

A shoemaker is the first to be buried in a cemetery. He was a very colorful character, who even after his death makes pranks to those who walk by the cemetery by night.

At this point Grandpa Elf wonders if there is ghosts if no one sees them. Grandpa Elf tells that nightmares are created when someone presses the sleeper hard, so that the sleep is disturbed and the sleeper feels distressed. The Finnish word for nightmare is painajainen and to press is painaa. So there for some presses us when we have nightmares.

Lapland is the place to have prmonnitions.
Lumbago in Finnish means Witches arrow (noidannuoli) and it was believed that witches shoot people with arrows and that causes the pain in the back. Other diseases are transmitted the same way. When someone looks ate you with the evil eye, you feel strange tingling. When objects are nowhere to be found, a spirit has taken it.

Premonitions are only seen in places where there is not a lot of movement, as is in Lapland. In a house, the people knew that someone was coming, before they could be seen. The wife told the guests that she had heard noises and seen these guests, who had then disappeared. Soon the real people had arrived.

Boogeymen lurking behind the outhouse.
Boogeymen are told to be seen in the dark. At the time, when toilets had separate outhouses, the kids were afraid to go there, because in the dark was boogeymen in the dark.

Ghost were seen, where people were. But then they disappeared from the Southern and then from the Western Finland. Most ghosts were seen 100 years ago. Today not so much.

Finland has few castles and many manors. The ghosts in those were appreciated. In the past, people were very afraid of ghosts, now a place isn’t distinguished or classy if it does not have its own ghost. For example the Olavinlinna in Savonlinna is haunted by a girl, who had been masoned in the walls, because she had let the enemy in the castle. She was innocent and now she is haunting the castle. In Hämeen linna haunts the sister of the chief that build the castle.

Today ghost have hard time finding jobs. They have lost their motivation, because no one is interested in them anymore. People find excitement elsewhere. Or maybe people are not afraid anymore. The ghosts have become technical. The Finnish word painovirhepaholainen means devil typo. People are not making mistakes, there is always something (aka the devil) that makes the mistakes. There is always light and noise, people are in a hurry. There is no place for ghosts. Grandpa Elf wonders, if he is really silent and paying attention, would he still see ghosts.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My own small little

Ulf Stark & Linda Bondestam 2014: Min egen lilla liten

In a dark and gray cave lives a Creature. Its eyes and skin can’t stand light. Every time it goes outside in the daytime, it feels a little sick, and then real sick, then it dies. Creature is gray like the mountain where its cave is. And it is all alone. Little Spark, who came from the Sun breaks into the Creature’s darkness and shows it colors and light. But Spark lives only one day, then it has to return and leave its friend, Creature.

The tone of the story is shining with melancholy, wistful and poetic.
The story reminds me of Pessi and Illusia as well as the children’s song Menninkäinen and Päivänsäde (Ray of light and the forest troll)

I do not understand why my boys want to read this book over and over again. To me, its just too sad to be a good fairy tale. It reminds me too much of real life: you have a quick view of something that you cannot have and then it is taken away from you. I had to write about this book, because it so well describes the Finnish mentality: we are gray creatures and when someone flashy and bright comes we are amazed. And in the end, we are content to live in our little gray caves, because we have to, otherwise we die. Or so we think, the Creature has no choice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Moominmamma's dangerous youth

Johanna Sinisalo 2007: Muumimamman vaarallinen nuoruus
Illustrated by Ilkka Ruokola

Moominmamma is my favorite Moomin character. She is the glue that keeps the family together. Moominpappa is an eccentric author, who thinks he is the head of the family, when in reality Moominmamma is the one running the show.

Moomintroll relies on Moominmamma to restore the order even when the comet is approaching and solves any problem that arises.

 Moominmamma’s youth is not discussed in Tove Jansson’s books, but in this comic book Moominmamma tells her family three stories about her youth and how she ends up in the storm only to be rescued by Moominpappa (This rescue is told in the exploits of Moominpappa). Moominmamma does not say which story is true.

Eagle snatches Moominmamma
In the first story Grandma takes Miss Moomin (as Moominmamma was called, when she was young) to the circus and Miss Moomin decides she wants to be a skill rider. Grandma gives her permission to join the circus. Once she is in one of the older riders gets jealousand starts to prank Moominmamma’s horse the Snowflower. Concerned for the safety of her horse, Moominmamma leaves the circus. She arrives in a city on the beach and finds work in Mymble’s tavern and a flat above a fillyjonk. Moominmamma becomes quite good in playing poker. One hemulen falls in love with Moominmamma. His family turns out to be orderly hypocrites as opposed to adventure loving and relaxed moomins. The thought of marrying such uptight, pretentious man distresses Moominmamma and she runs away to the sea and then there is the storm that introduces Moominpappa.

The second storyline follows the same lines, but when Moominmamma and her fiancé the hemulen are collecting seaweed on the shore, they meet pirates, who kidnap Moominmamma. Moominmamma saves Beard Pete with herbal medicine and becomes the ship’s lay surgeon. She also makes them crepes and plays poker with them and then there is the storm.

Moominmammas' sandwitch recipe
from Moomins Cookbook
In the third story Moominmamma lives with her grandmother and as they are wonder
ers they hike to the Lonely Mountains and pop in to an observatory. The professors there enjoy the crepes and offer Moomimamma to work for them. Moominmamma’s job is to clean the telescope, make crepes and play poker. Soon Moominmamma gets bored and leaves the observatory after asking professor permission of course. In the mountains Moominmamma gets snatched by an eagle. The eagle takes her to the sea. Moominmamma sees a boat and bites herself free from the eagle. The boat belongs to hattifatteners and the storm is upon them.

The comic is full of familiar references to Tove Jansson’s stories: Moominpappa rescuing Moominmamma ( Moominpappa’s memoirs) , the Observatory at the Lonely mountains (Comet in Moominland) and the stereotypes of hemulens and fillyjonks. Even the illustrations seem to be fresh versions of Tove Jansson’s comics.

Moomimamma paints a garden
Next I will share my three favorite parts of the Moomin books that describe the personality of Moominmamma.

In the book “Moominpappa at sea” Moominamma follows Moominpappa to the lighthouse island even though she does not want to. Moominmamma gets frustrated on the raw island, where nothing grows. On the island Moominmma takes her memories as her soil. Relying on her memories she paints a garden inside the light house. During this painting process Moominamma’s anxiety prevails and she is more content at living on the island. She thinks that the scenery on the island is even more beautiful than a garden. The illusion of the ease and happiness of Moominvalley no longer haunt her.

Moominmamma hugs King of California.

Her character is also shown in “Finn Family Moomintroll”, when the children find a
Magician’s Hat and Moomintroll jumps into it. He turns into a King of California, which no one will recognize. Moomintroll gets scared, but then Moominmamma looks him in the eye and sees her son. Moomintroll is transformed back to his own self.

Moominmamma shows Ninny her room
The third story is from“Tales from Moominvalley” short story “The Invisible Child”. A little girl named Ninny has been frightened by her previous care taker so badly that she has become invisible. Moominmamma gives her love and affection, the others play with her. Then Moominpappa plans on sneaking up and scaring Moominmamma, but Ninny rushes up behind and shoves Moominpappa into the sea and Ninny becomes visible again.

The Moomins have many philosophical aspects that I was introduced to in Esa Saarinen’s philosophy lecture at Aalto University. In Professor Saarinen’s opinion we have a lot to be learned from the Moomins. First, not everyone has to be supermodels with long legs. Moomins have short legs and they are fine and live a happy life. Second, travelling and adventures are fine, but Moominvalley is the enough. And thirdly like Moominmamma’s philosophy the most important thing is to make sure everyone else are happy. There is also a book about Moomin philosophy at the light of exsistentialism by Jukka Laajarinne (Muumit ja olemisen arvoitus).

 In Tove Jansson’s books Moominamma loves to cook and attend to her garden. To the theme have been published two books: Moomins cook book and Moominvalley Gardening book.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Learning speach sounds

Karoliina Pertamo 2010: Opin äänteet

This book activates the young readers to find the same speech sounds from the pictures.

I am always interested in how the books explain the letters C, Q,W, X and Å to the Finnish kids since they are not used in the Finnish  language.  Well Celsius is easy and xylitol. W can be seen in WC.  Q is just O with tail.

I am also waiting for some nut to suggest to remove these letters from the alphabet for saving money.

Now there is talk about Swedish not being mandatory in the Finnish schools, why don't they take out Å as well? We do not use it and it is so Swedish.

In this book Å is explained through Swedish. A  tart it tårta in Swedish and a track is spår. They don't say why there are no Finnish words with Å.

I like this book, because it has so many words for one letter (exept Å) and it  gives great joy, when the boys find a word that has that specific letter.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Enough and to spare

Illustrated by Annastiina Syväjärvi 2012: Yllinkyllin
text by Johanna Venho

Little girl named Kylli is moving. She finds a catalog that has a picture of a pink toy pony. She wants it and she wants it bad.  Her mother is telling her that she can't have everything she wants. But Kylli's Mother's actions tell otherwise: she is complaining about the old couch, wanting  a new one and she has plenty of unnecessary things.

Kylli goes to play outside and finds a new friend and the pink pony is forgotten.

Colorfully illustrated, very educational story about too much stuff and how adults are sending mixed messages to children. After all what is the most important thing in children's lives or for adults for that matter?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


First Mokomaki! large picture book cover.
Satu Konttinen 2011: Mo-ko-ma-ki! Löy-dä-kö mi-nun pik-ku ket-tu-ni? Se me-ni pii-loon
and 2014: Mo-ko-ma-ki! Löy-dät-kö rai-ta-ni? Jo-ku vei ne.

"Mokomaki" word is used when some one is not being so nice. "Accursed" is to strong, this is more endearing. In some cases, you might use just "That dog!". This remind me the movie "Some like it hot" Dolores saying to Joe "Why you..!" When he asked what she was doing that evening and then asked to borrow her car, when she had no plans for the evening. Any way these two books are delicious colors and cute animals. As an adult reader the hyphenation is a little distrubing, but not much.

Not all the animals are typically Finnish (ie. the zebra and the monkey), but I especially like fox and rowan berries. The Aesop fable about the grapes being sour is in Finnish: "Happamia, sanoi kettu pihlajanmarjoista kun ei niihin yltänyt", which translates: "Sour, said the fox about rowan berries, not being able to reach them". Of course the pie that is missing a piece resembles Carelian pie.

Some one bit off a piece of  reindeer's pie
The first Mokomaki! -book is a giant size picture book full of silly animals. The beach balls, reindeer's antlers and other stuff goes missing. One gets its toes wet, some one bites off a piece of pie. It is left to the reader to solve these little mysteries. The kids love to look for the small details that are hidden in a pattern of different animals.

Second, smaller Mokomaki! book cover

In the second smaaller book, zebra has lost his stripes, a fox has lost his berries and a bear his woolly sleeping hat. Where as in the first book the spread had only one animal, in this second book the spread is filled with different animals. From spread to spread the places of the animals are changed and there fore finding the missing items takes longer.

Some one has taken bears wooly sleeping hat.
Fox is looking for lost berries.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Walk this world

Jenny Broom 2013
Illustrated by Lotta Nieminen

The book celebrates different cities. All very different all colorful. Every spread introduces a new city from Helsinki to Sydney.

All citys have flaps so the reader can see inside the buildings.


Fascinating is that Helsinkin is surrounded by forests. That maybe true. I also enjoy the onion domes of the Red Square and the very recognizable Sydney Opera House.