Thursday, April 30, 2015

Harvest adventure

Olli enjoys several berries and fruit.
Irja Nikkinen 2010: Satoseikkailu : Olli Omenatoukan makoisat retket
illustrated by Jenni Lindfors

Saulus is an eager hiker. Suddenly he is joined by Olli Omenamato (Andy the Appleworm), who is very skeptical about anything new. Together they investigate the garden, nearby forest and even to the mire. They find all kinds of delicacies on their way.

Finnish swamp berries
Olli tells about the berries at the swamp
In the garden Saulus and Olli tend to the apple tree, taste different berries and even chocolate cherries. In the forest they find blueberries, lingonberries and cranberries and at the swamp they try cloud berries. Olli learns that new things are great and not so scary at all when you have a friend with you.

Finnish forest, forest berries
The readers are encouraged to find the items in the picture.
Finns have many berries growing in their gardens. Many go to the forest to pick some more, but not enough. Every year there are news about how many tons of berries are left to the forest, because people do not bother to go and pick them. Another debate happens, when the large frozen berry -producers flies berry-pickers from Thailand.  I always wondered about that too. We have so many unemployed people. Has anyone even asked them? May be the unemployed are afraid they loose their support from the state if they take these type of jobs.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Fox cub and the Great Shadow

Katariina Lempinen 2002: Ketunpoika ja suuri varjo

Little fox lives on a riverbank. One night he cannot sleep and wants to see the big world. It has rained and the bank is slippery. The little fox falls into the river. He meets many animals who are too afraid to help the fox cub home. They are afraid of the Great Shadow in the dark forest. The little fox gets scared, but he wants to go home. It turns out there is nothing to be afraid.

Similarities to Veikka's forest adventure are the fox and getting lost. This book about the Great Shadow describes fear and facing it more and uses fear of dark as an example. Many kids can understand that.

The illustrations of this book remind me of the illustrations of Hans Arnold.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Satu and Pyrre of the peartree

Anna Gullichsen 2008: Satu ja päärynäpuun Pyrre
illustrated by Cara-Maria Knuutinen

Satu’s is spending her summer with her Grandmother. Grandma Simone is from France and raises plants in pots that grow in her native region: rosemary, lavender, agave, olive trees and many other. Satu’s grandfather was a gardener and he set up a garden that has rare perennials. In the garden plot Satu and Grandma Simone have sown spinach, beans, carrots and chili peppers.

One day Satu climbs into a high oak and hears humming. It is not a bird, a cricket or a kitten. The hummer is a small man who resembles a tree branch. His name is Pyrus Communis, pear tree in Latin. His nick name is Pyrre and he helps Satu take care of the garden, weeding and composting.

Wonderful flowers that bloom in Grandma Simone's garden.
 The book is full of plants in the garden, recipes for Provençal opinion pie and pear marmalade. In June bloom different flowers than in July or August. There is even a small Finnish-French dictionary at the end of the book, since Grandma Simone uses them when she speaks to Satu.

 I realise that my green thumb is making itself known. The book is wonderfully colored and all the flowers look tempting. I cannot wait to get my hands on the dirt. Usually I am too early in the nurseries and I cannot find all the plants that I would like to have in my garden.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mill elf and a mouse

Tiina Tikkanen 2008: Myllytonttu ja hiiri
Illustrated by Satu Ilmonen

The old elf is visited by a hungry mouse. The elf is not pleased: mice cannot be in the mill messing things up. He takes the mouse in any way and shows him how the mill operates.

 One day the elf hears another mouse voice. Again the elf tells them that they cannot live in the mill. He knows that soon there will be baby mice running around.

 The miller finds out about the mice and sets his cat on the mice. The mice flee. The old elf is both happy for the mice but sad that his friend left.

Birdseye view of the mill
Elves are not just part of Christmas. People believed that there was creatures looking over a particular place like the mill. I especially like the rich oil painting style of this book. Now the value of old buildings have been noticed and places like this mill have become a new life.

The book is based on Töllin Mylly in Nummi-Pusula.The existing mill was built in 1922, but in the same spot has been Mills since the 19th century.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Sami J. Anteroinen 2008: Peikot
illustrated by Elena Klykova

The book gives detailed information about trolls in Finlan. It is known that trolls live in forest. So the most sightings of trolls have been made in Ostrobothnia, where are too few places to hide.

The troll are vanishing in to Lapland, where there is still room for them.  Their habitat is diminishing just like rare animals. The book also tells about trolls' eating habits, birth and charecteristics. I always thought trolls are small, but this book discribes them almost like giants.

 Most famous folklore is about changelings. The story tells that trolls used to switch human children with their own. The author is suggesting, that trolls wanted to have more intelligence in their gene pool.

In my mind trolls are always accociated with Norway. Norway has done a great job in branding trolls. This book shows me that trolls have been part of Finnish folklore as well. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Golden merganser

Annukka ja Samuli Aikio 1982: Tyttö, joka muuttui kultaiseksi koskeloksi : vanhan saamelaisen kansansadun mukaan
Illustrated by Mika Launis
Based on an old Sami folk tale: a girl that turned into a golden merganser.

Naavisemo and Luhtakka are neighbors. Naavisemo has a beautiful daughter, but Luhtakka’s daughter is ugly and vicious. Prince wants to see Naavisemo’s daughter and as soon as he does, he wants to marry her.

Prince sees the beautiful Naavisemo's daughter
Naavisemo’s son and daughter travel to the prince. Naavisemo’s son asks his sister to dress in the most beautiful dress. His sister does not hear him and Luhtakka’s daughter whispers that Naavisemo’s daughter should get dressed and jump in the sea as a golden merganser. She does and Luhtakkas nasty daughter takes her place.

Luhtakka’s daughter arrives in the castle and is taken to the softest bed ever. In the morning when Luhtakka’s daughter is asked, how she slept, she says poorly, because the bed was hard as a rock. The next night more mattresses are put in Luhtakka’s daughter’s bed, but she still thinks it’s too soft. People at the castle realize that all is not right. The old woman of Kentänpää realizes that it is Luhtakka’s daughter and advises to set tree trunks and roots as bed for her. In the morning Luhtakka’s daughter is happy. When she is sent to milk cows, the udders bleed.

The prince gets mad and wants to kill the girl and her brother. Naavisemo’s son tells him about the switch and tells the prince that he should catch the merganser and hold tight. When se shifts into a spindle, he should break it in two and through the other have into the sea and hold on to the other. The prince dresses up as the brother and goes to the shore. The golden merganser rises as Naavisemo’s wonderful daughter. The price grabs her and does as the brother told him. At the end the other half of the spindle becomes a merganser and the Naavisemo’s daughter. She refuses to come to the castle as long as Luhtakka’s daughter is there. The prince burns Luhtakka’s daughter and weds Naavisemo’s daughter.

I particularly like the illustrations of this book. To me they are some what exotic. This book has been published in five different Sami language, Finnish and Swedish. My ignorance shows no limits: I thought there is only one Sami language, but there actually is nine of them (Few are spoken by less than 10 people). I wonder about the names. The daughters' names are not told, only the mothers'. This story has been told in different versions and at the beginning of the book is told that Naavisemo and Luhtakka are mythical characters, from whom the real people and nasty hags stem.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Taxbear- introduction to taxing

Taxbear chases Nalle to Sweden.
Mikko Kunnas 2014: verotuksen alkeet

The taxing authority is also known as taxbear in Finland (in Finnish , Swedish and German to collect debt has the same root as bear. Karhuta)

In this comic book, the taxbear is collecting tax from all the forest animals: bees, hedgehogs, owls. In the cover of the book, the taxbear is chasing another bear to Sweden. The otehr bear resembles Björn Wahlroos, who resently moved his residence to Sweden, because the taxing in Finland is too high.
Hedghog is either complaining about the weather or high taxes.
The strips are cute, my personal favourites can be seen in the images. The grumpy hedgehog, whose swearing has been sensored and the Taxbear wonders if the hedgehog was commenting the weather or making a complain for the taxes.

In the other strip, the Taxbear gets a visit from an EU collegue, who happens to be an elephant. The elephant wants to tax Taxbear.

Collegue from EU is paying a visit.
We Finns love our taxes. It seems to me that patrionism here is count by, how much taxes you pay.  It is very different from the American patriotism. But these high taxes cover the schools and health care.

I personally admire the creativity ogf the tax authority: there is nothing you can do that cannot be taxed. Besides the tax authority has made paying the taxes real simple: you can do your taxes on the internet. How wonderful!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Secret of the Easter witches

Tiina Kaila, Leena Airikkala 1989: Pääsiäisnoitien salaisuus

The Witch Sabora is busy. At Kyöpelinvuori (Ghost’s mountain) witches make chocolate Easter eggs for children. The cook Nanneli is already expecting Sabora. The Grand Witch is coming to inspect the making of the eggs. She is happy with the eggs but soon to her horror realizes that she lost her ring. The secret ring has to be found at once, otherwise there will be trouble.

 The Grand Witch summons all witches and tells them about the ring. If it is not found, all witches will vanish. The witches search everywhere but, they cannot find the ring.

Tiiti tells them she found an odd looking ring from the lawn and has taken it to the ring forge among the other rings. All the witches rush to the forge, but they cannot find the ring. It must be inside one of the chocolate Easter eggs.

 The witches decide to break the eggs, but there are too many. Time is running out and the witches decide to deliver the eggs and then watch who gets the secret ring.

Sabora observes the eggs taken to Saara. Saara notices the eggs as soon as they are delivered and opens the first egg. It has the most beautiful ring she has ever seen. Saara puts the ring in her finger and as soon as she has done that, she turns into a witch. Saara says all she needs now is a black cat and a coffee pot. They appear, the ring grants wishes. Next Saara wants orange soda in the coffee pot, and there is. Saara’s brother Lasse wants to be witch, too and Saara wishes him to be one. The children decide to go for a broom flight. A broom and a rake take them toward the other witches and the children follow them all day.

Saara and Lasse follow the witches
The children fallow the witches to Kyöpelinvuori. The Grand Witch is sure they all are finished. Saara realizes that she has the ring. Saara returns the ring. The witches are grateful and set a big table outside full of Easter delicacies. After their celebration, the witches take the children home.

Finland is a very homogenous nation, but at least in Easter traditions there is variation between the east and the west. When I was a kid, we dressed up as witches and made decorative willow branches and then went door to door (virpominen). We had a rhyme, where we wished all well for the coming year and if they would give us candy, we would give them the branches. Kind of like trick or treat, but Easter time. This happened on Palm Sunday. Now my cousin lives near Vaasa, in Ostrobothnia. They too did this but on Holy Thursday and it is called “trullittaminen”. So our childhood tradition came from the east and the Ostrobothnian from Sweden. Here’s more about the Finnish Easter tradions.

The chocolate surprise eggs are not a Finnish invention. The Kinder eggs are known in all Europe and we laugh at the American’s who have banned this great invention, because children might suffocate in the toy inside. Yeah, guns are much safer.