Monday, March 30, 2015

Veikka's forest adventure

Tuuli Hypén 2014: Veikan metsäretki

Veikka lives with his mother under a large oak on a meadow. Veikka’s mother has to rest during daytime, because she hunts at night. Veikka on the other hand has lots and lots of energy. Mother warns him not to go too far from home.

Veikka plays tag with butterflies and gets lost in the nearby forest. There is lot to see. Mice do not see Veikka, but the youngest badger snuffles Veikka hello. Vekka asks a forest mouse directions home, but the mouse is too busy eating raspberries. He would like to have some more, but the berries are too high. Veikka helps him. The mouse would gladly help, but he does not know where the meadow.

Goldcrest dance
Next, Veikka meets a hedgehog, who is in a very bad mood. He has leaves stuck on his spikes. Veikka takes the leaves off. The hedgehog advises Veikka to go round the hazel to get back to the meadow. But Veikka does not know what a hazel looks like.

Next he finds a glum snake by the rocks. Someone has pooped on the his favourite rock and he cannot warm up. Veikka wipes the doo off and the snake directs him to the hazel.

Goldcrest dance for Veikka and take him to the hazel. The hazel is so big, it is almost a tree. Inside the bush are lot of lovely smells. Veikka is busy, but is interreupted by a rabbit, who is stuck on a plastic bag. Veikka gets the bag off and the rabbit tells him the meadow is just behind the hill. It is getting dark and Veikka falls down the hill onto a bear. Bear has heard, how Veikka has helped the forest animals and carries him home.
This book has almost comicbooklike illustrations that capture well the different characteristics of different animals. Usually fox is the sly one, but here fox helps everyone.

The book has an important lesson in addition to the helping others part, do not go alone in the forest or you'll get lost.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tales from the Home spruce

Riina Juvonen 2011: Kotikuusen tarinoita

Old Finnish proverb: “Sitä kuusta kuuleminen, jonka juurella asunto.” demonstrates the importance of understanding your origins and home environment (Basically: Listen to the spruce, under which your home is.) Three cute stories the home spruce tells everyone who wants to listen, every story has a lesson to be learned about friendship, kindness and understanding.

Otso dances with the fairy

The bear and the fairy 

Bear happily demonstrates his strength to others. It had nothing to fear, but neither had he any friends. One day Otso (one Finnish synonym for bear) sits on the meadow and is happy, but he has no one to share it with. He starts to cry. A fairy arrives from the Rainbow and does not know anyone. She asks, if she can join Otso and if he could teach the bear dance for her. All fairies at the Rainbow love to dance. Otso thinks this is strange, but starts to dance. It is fun and Otso forgets all his worries and dances with the fairy.

Other animals arrive, but Otso and the Fairy do not see them. None of them believe what they are seeing and start to laugh. Otso gets mad and runs to the forest. The fairy does not understand why Otso left and flies after him. Otso growls that he won’t dance: he is scary and powerful. The fairy tries to explain that even though he is all that, does not mean he has to be alone. The fairy was sent down to help him. Otso would have wanted another bear, wolf, wolverine or even a raccoon dog. Light fairy is not his idea of a friend. Otso yells at the fairy that she should go back to where she came from and tomorrow he will tear down all forest. Let them laugh at him then!

 In the morning the fairy tickles Otso’s toes. He has company. All the other animals want him to teach him how to dance. In the fall fairy has to move back to the Rainbow and Otso goes to hibernation knowing that the fairy will be back in the spring.

Snappy Ram and the cloud sheep 

Snappy gives grief to the weather elf
High on the sky promenade a herd of cloud sheep. The weather elf is happy with her sheep. Little Snappy is not happy, his mother had just upbraided him for picking on the other lambs. Snappy thinks he is the son of a thunder cloud and not cotton candy and decides to show the others that he can raise a storm as well.

The weather elf tries to stop him, but Snappy just huffs and puffs and shakes hail from his wool. It booms and makes lightnings. It breaks children’s sand castles and creates a mess at the beach, where people are enjoying a lovely summer day. Then he gallops to the fields. There his breaks the electric wires so the freezes melt, milk gets bad and all get wet. Snappy is now happy. The weather elf waits for him very sad, and so do the rest of the herd. Mother says Snappy has embarrassed them all. A real thundercloud refreshes the air, when the heat is too suffocating. The weather elf orders Snappy away from the herd, to the place where tornados, hurricanes and thrombuses are. Snappy is fine with that. The outback of the sky is gloomy. A strong tornado grabs Snappy and shakes him so that he feels sick. The others try to pull him a part too. Soon he is just lying there, alone and unhappy. He just wants to go home to mother. Snappy returns to the others shouting that he wants to be a cloud sheep and nothing else. All get happy and hug him. His father tells him, that a good sheep learns from his mistakes.

 Fox, Bear and the Snake tree 

The snakes have just woken up in the spring. Bear also smells the fresh air and stretches out on the ground, when a snake bites him. The bear gets mad: who dares to disturb him, the king of the forest. A fox hears him and comes to see. The bear’s ear is all swollen and he needs the forest elf’s magic lotion.

The animals discuss what to do with the snakes.
The bear summons all forest animals. The snakes need order and the bear suggest that they are exiled from the forest. The leader of the snakes defends them, that the snakes are very frightened and only defend themselves. The fox suggests that the snakes move to the tree. When there is no fear the snakes and the other animals get to know each other. The snakes help lost animals to find their way. In the fall the leader snake makes a nest next door to the bear. The bear is sure that next spring they can learn to live in peace. Friendship gets everyone to live in peace.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Satu bathes in sauna

Marja Vuorio 2012: Satu meni saunaan
Illustrated by Marjo Nygård

Satu walks to sauna, where the sauna elf is cleaning. Satu asks him, if she can help. The elf is happy to accept. He is kind and shy, so you can seldom see him.

The towels will be changed next week. The Sauna elf says good buy and disappears through a small door under the bench. Satu asks if she can follow. The elf takes her to the laundry room, where Satu and her mother have been doing laundry. A neighbor arrives, but she cannot find the matches. The elf is perplexed: he has borrowed the matches and forgot to bring them back. This has never happened before! Satu tries to comfort him, every one forgets sometimes. Satu asks would it be easier if the sauna building had electricity. The old sauna elf is very upset, all sauna elves are suspicious about electricity.

The sauna elf tells Satu about the other sauna elves that are part of the Sauna Elf Guild. There are barrel sauna elves, smoke sauna elves, electric sauna elves and more unusual rock sauna elf and dugout sauna elf. All of them have days off, when the household does not bathe.

Satu asks more about the smoke sauna. The sauna elf tells her that there is no smoke, when it is ready to be bathed in. You heat it up and since there is no chimney the smoke fills the room. When the fire is died out, the smoke is let out. He suggest that they go meet a smoke sauna elf. The smoke sauna elf tells them that they cannot come in yet, there is the stone cleaning steam though going on. Then you absolutely not can be in the sauna.

The other elves gather on the porch. The electric sauna elves are leaving for summer houses and need advice to for heating up wood burning stoves and the smoke sauna stoves. Many smoke sauna’s have burned to the grown, when the sauna elves have not been watching them. Suddenly they see people coming to bathe and they all leave. Satu is asked to join the neighbors to the sauna.

“Satu meni saunaan”, the title of the book is also a children’s rhyme. It is also a song that is used to teach children play musical instrument.

There is a huge debate about the right temperature of a sauna. I think it depends. The electric saunas might not have as big of a variation as the wood stove saunas. I have experienced the two extremes: my sister’s sauna is very comfortable at 100 degrees Celsius, but I cannot stand my mother’s sauna, if it is over 60 degrees Celsius. My mother refers to my sister’s sauna as the cow breath sauna. She likes to bathe in very hot and dry sauna, whereas my sister and I prefer humid and gentler air. The right temperature also depends on, who has heated the sauna and what kind of wood he/she has used. Heating a sauna can be tricky: sometimes the weather is so high that the fire practically swallows the wood and sometimes it is so low that the wood don’t seem to fire up at all. Not to mention if you happen to take the wood out of a pile that has not dried yet, burning fresh wood does not work. It takes some experience and knowledge of the particular stove to get the best possible bathing experience.

Any way, sauna is sacred to us Finns and we are proud that the English word is sauna and not bastu (sauna in Swedish). More information from the Finnish Sauna Association.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book of dark

Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo 2009: Mörkboken
illustrated by Lena Frölander-Ulf

At thunderstorms strange noises make you imagine things. Princess Small the thunder does not bother, she wraps her hair into small knots, carefully picks her nose and buries herself in her book. The walls are thick and the gate is locked. An owl hoots worries. Marshall of the court worries and wonders who is hooting. Is a wizard, who is after the castle’s treasures? Or is it thieves and trash? The Marshall hurries to Princess Small, she must be worried. But she isn’t. The Marshall tells her about all the scary things and frightens himself. Princess Small is not scared, there is nothing out there. The Marshall jumps when the owl hoots again. Doesn’t Princess hear it? Princess Small hears and feels smaller.

The Marshall's stories haunt Princess Small.
Night after night Princess Small remembers the Marshall’s stories and worries find her. Maybe the wizard is plotting with the thief in the darkness of the forest. Maybe a werewolf whispers to the dear with the flaming antlers and all of them gesture toward the castle. Princess Small cannot sleep and tries not to think about anything. She is not happy anymore. Then she gets tired of worrying and opens all locks, doors and windows. The Marshall tries to stop her.

Were wolf and the deer with the flaming antlers plot.
Princess Small runs into the forest and doesn’t see the thieves, who rejoice of the open doors. Princess Small runs lightly: she has nothing to carry. She does not now about the feasting in the castle.

After a while Princess Small finds a small cave and since there is no one to tell her, what to be afraid, she goes in. There lies pale and small Poorthing, who has boils. Princess Small starts to take care of him. She brings him water and tends for him. She gets the boils as well. Meanwhile at the castle people are fighting, it is Poorthing’s turn to take care of Princess Small. She gets well and is very happy and does not miss the castle at all.

The book is totally black and white, which suits well, since the topic is darkeness. I read somewhere that people have been afraid of the dark as long as there has been people. The lesson to be learned from this black and white book is not to worry. And “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” I also like that the princess chose the cave over the castle. How many would really do that?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Children's own year book

Tuula Korolainen, Riitta Tulusto 2014: Lasten oma vuosikirja
illustrated by Maija Hurme

This books covers several flag days and holidays that are celebrated in Finland. Some are here just because they might intrest children (International Teddy Bear Day). This book also has stories and myths about these dates.

It starts from January, when New Year ’s Day, the Russian New Year, Epiphany and Nuutti’s day (St. Knut’s day) are celebrated.

In February are Chinese New Year, Runeberg’s day, Sami National Day, Valentine ’s Day, Shrovetide, Maslenitsa, day of Kalevala and the Leap day. Valentine’s Day is more of a Friendship Day in Finland. And on Leap day women were entitled to propose a marriage and if the man refused he was supposed to buy skirt fabric for the lady. This is a tradition in Ireland as well 

In March are international women’s day, Minna Canth’s Day, vernal equinox and the start of day light saving time. Purim , Easter and the Easter of the Greek Orthodox Church are described here as well. Although their dates vary. Easter is celebrated both on Sunday and Monday. Good Friday is a national holiday as well. Although their dates vary.

Minna Canth is the only woman, who has her own
flagging day.
Easter is celebrated both on Sunday and Monday. Good Friday is a national holiday as well.

In April are April fool’s day, International Romani national day, Mikael Agricola day, Day of Rose and Book, Åland flag day, National Veteran’s Day.

May starts with First of May, Vappu, which in Finland is the day celebrating work, then arrives Europe day, mothers’ day, J.V.Snellman’s day, day of flower, remembrance day, national museum day. Then again the Christian days that can be either in May or June: Ascension Day and Whitsuntide. Also the last day of school is the Saturday of week 22, this is either the last Saturday of May or the first Saturday of June.

 In June are The Finnish Defence Forces' Day, World’s environment day, Åland self-government day, the day for wild flowers, Mid summer and summer solstice.

It was believed that it rains so much on womens' week,
because women are so emotional.
In July all of Finland is on vacation, then is also flagged for Eino Leino, at the end of July is womens’ week, day for Unikeko (internationally known as Seven sleepers day) and Jaakko’s day (When Jaakko throws a cold stone to water). The book also tells about Id-al-Fir and its customs.

In August starts schools, the summer houses are prepared for the long winter and the end of summer is celebrated in the Ostrobothnia in Venetian evening or as others call it the end of villa season.

 In September comes the Entrepreneur’s Day, international day for literacy, international peace day, leave the car at home day, autumnal equinox and day of Mikkeli (Archangel Michel’s day).

In October are world animal day, Aleksis Kivi’s day, Global handwashing day, World Hunger day, Fairytale day, Grandparent’s day, the UN day, international Teddy Bear Day (celebrated on Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday), end of day light savings time, Kekri and Halloween.

Independence day happens to be at the darkes time of the year.
November starts with All Saints’ day, followed by Swedish Heritage day, Martti’s day, Father’s day, Universal Children’s day. Hanukkah is described in this part, because it too has changing dates. Advent time starts either on the last Sunday of November or the first Sunday of December.

In December is Independence day, Jean Sibelius day, Lucia day, winter solstice, Christmas days: Eve, Day and Tapani day (the second Christmas day) and the finally the Holy Innocents’ Day. The only bank holidays are the Church holidays (Epiphany, Easter, Ascension Day, Christmas) and then Vappu and Juhannus. More about  Flying the flag in the Ministry of the interior web site.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Police Constable Bear and the invisible danger

Marko Kilpi 2010: Konstaapeli Kontio ja näkymätön vaara
illustrated by Janne Markkanen

Grandma Hedgehog is speeding with her kick sled and runs Constable Bear over. Nobody can see her, before it is too late.

Constable Bear wants that everyone can walk safely even when it is dark and he knows that he cannot change Grandma Hedgehog. He asks the town smith to come up with something that makes Grandma Hedgehog visible so others can avoid her.

The smith comes up with all kinds of gadgets. But the best is a reflector that has already been invented. Constable Bear orders everyone to wear one. Soon it is discovered that someone is not obeying the order. The villages have hear footsteps, but no one is seen. Constable Bear solves the mystery.

 The book reveals all kinds of things about us Finns:
 1. Bear has several names
2. The police is respected
3. Using reflector is taught to every child. It is a cheap life insurance
4. Grandmas with kick sleds are fairly common.

Let’s start with bears. My limitation of English language is screaming hear, since I could not come up with a synonym. Grizzly refers to a specific type of bear just like teddy. Finnish language has several: karhu, mesikämmen, otso, kontio just to name a few.

Grandma Hedgehog runs Constable Bear over.
 In this book the police is a bear. Both are well respected and maybe feared a little. By the way why are fear and respect walking hand in hand? It is amazing that the Finnish police considers the people they are dealing with as customers (Unless you are applying for a passport, then you are treated worse than the lowest criminal. I guess the administrators of the police station haven’t attended the same customer service courses as the police officers, who are enforcing law in the streets.)

We Finns believe that the reflector was invented in Finland. And in the country side people actually wear them. The city people think that since there are street lights, the car drivers can see them. But that is not the case. There are so many shadows that make the visibility poor at night time. Remember that darkness commands half the year. I have also heard that some think that it is embarrassed to wear a reflector. I do not understand why the outerwear designers can’t make jackets and pants with reflectors that look good.

Lastly, Grandmas with kick sleds is almost a cliché. In order to use a kick sled the roads must be stomped with snow, so that it is icy. Nowadays most roads are salted or at least sanded, so you cannot ride a kick sled. I do know that at least my mother sleds down to pick up mail with a kick sled.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Circus at the Library

Markus Majaluoma 2011: Sirkus saapuu kirjastoon

Ode to the Finnish Library institute.

There is a new intern at the library for the summer. The director instructs the intern, Maximilia that there is always a right book for whatever the customer wants. Then the director leaves for vacation. Maximilia opens the doors.

 First comes in a couple, a cat and a dog, pushing and shoving each other. The cat wants a book, in which the dogs are taught to sit still and not to pant at birthday parties. The dog wants a book, in which cats are taught to scratch the dog from the right place and to serve them real meat. Maximilia thinks real hard, but cannot figure out which book to give them. Then he picks up a book called “Fixing Gardens”. Nobody wants to eat meat after reading that book and it shows how to build a deck. The cat can host parties and the dog can have its own doghouse. The cat and the dog leave happy.

Next comes a lion, speaking in savo dialect. He wants to read a book about fishing. The lion is stressed out about being the ruler of the animal kingdom. Maximilian gives him “Oriental sitting practices”. It teaches how to sit still as in fishing.

Elephant wants a dieting book, because everyone laughs at it when it comes to stage. Maximillia hands out “The great Ballet syllabus”.

Clown comes in apologetic and is looking for a book about the diversity of human nature in literature. Maximilia picks up all the books that are taken out of circulation and piles them up in the clown’s big pants. The clown thinks it is a marvelous idea and plans on installing a reading light in there as well.

The pack of dog youth wants to use the internet. Maximilia gives them the passwords, but warns them not to surf the cat sites. It is strictly forbidden form dogs.

It is almost closing time, when Maximilia hears a small voice. Two lice want a tiny book. Maximilia gives them a microchip with all the books of the world. At home Maximilia picks a book and reads it. Any book will do.

Nowadays you can borrow anything from the library: board games, movies, video games, guitars, skies, skates, drills…. Needless to say, I appreciate library enormously. I guess it also gives the chance to read all the books in the world. And to quote Albert Einstein: “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” That is so true.

 I have always wondered, why you cannot return a book back to the store, if you do not like it. You can return almost anything, except books and movies. I have stopped going to the movies, because the tickets are so expensive and most of the movies are so violent that I do not consider them entertainment anymore. How is killing entertainment anyways? There is enough violence in the news. Anyway, I hate to buy a book only to realize that is wasn’t a good book after all. Library solves that problem. I borrow a book and if I like it, then I buy it. This is great with childrens’ books. We test read the library book and then if the boys (or I) like it, then I buy it. I also like the e-books that do not take any self spaces. We have too much stuff as it is. Even though, I do not think there is ever too many books.