Today’s post is about signposting you to more children’s books either by Finnish authors / illustrators or with Finnish themes. Perhaps you’re simply curious about children’s literature from another part of the world. Or maybe at some point this year Finland will be in the headlines (for example because the Finnish city of Turku is joint European City of Culture in 2011) and you’ll want to find some books to read with your kids to complement learning about Finland. Either way, this post will provide you with some starting points, and hopefully whet your appetite for Finnish children’s literature.
I haven’t read all the books mentioned in today’s post (although in researching this post I’ve added lots of books to my wishlist!), and the list is certainly not exhaustive – rather I’ve tried to highlight some of the best Finnish books out there, using various reference works and recommendations to guide me in my selection.
A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books lists The Princess Mouse by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Leonid Gore (and no other books) under the heading for Finland.
Based on the Finnish folktale The Forest Bride, the full (but unillustrated) text is available on Aaron Shepard’s website. Booklist says “Shepard’s charmingly droll version of a Finnish folktale combines classic elements with unexpected, witty details–among them, an outspoken mouse who sings a little song in the story (lyrics and melody appended). The jewel-toned art has beautiful luminescence; the elongated, somewhat blocky look of the characters reinforces the fantasy; and the mice are downright irresistible.”
Outside In, a UK based organisation dedicated to promoting and exploring world literature and children’s books in translation is a great place to visit to find information on children’s books in English, originally written in other languages. It’s possible to search by age and country of origin and is a wonderful resource!
Who Will Comfort Toffle? by Tove Jansson, and Tundra Mouse Mountain by Riita Jalonen, illustrated by Kristiina Louhi.
We have Tundra Mouse Mountain here at home and it is a lovely, quietly beguiling story full of little details about Finland and Northern Norway, rock art, memories and a special road trip shared by a mother and daughter to beautiful places in this remote part of the world. Definitely worth tracking down a copy!
1001 Children’s Books You Must Read before You Grow Up (ed. Julia Eccleshare, 2009) includes several Finnish books but only those by Tove Jansson have been translated into English:
Here’s a selection of Finnish authored/illustrated/themed books that have received good reviews on Amazon:
North Wind Books at Finlandia University (based in Michigan, US, but happy to ship worldwild) sells a good selection of both Finnish children’s books in translation and also children’s literature on Finnish-American themes.
A great place to find out about the latest books and book news from Finland (for kids and adults alike) is in the online literary journal, Books from Finland. Click here to go to all their articles about children’s books.
The Finnish Literature Society has a very useful database on Finnish books (again, for both adults and children) which have been translated into other languages (not just English). A search for Finnish picture books translated into English between 2000 and 2007 lists 46 books!
A roundup of Finnish children’s books wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Mauri Kunnas a well regarded and prolific author and illustrator best known for his anthropomorphic animals, that in the early days were likened to the illustrations of Richard Scarry. His most famous children’s book series, Koiramäki (Dog Hill), is set in historical Finland, and one book from this series, The Doghill Kids Go to Town, has been translated into English. Click here for an interesting article about Mauri Kunnas from This is Finland .
Other well regarded illustrators from Finland include those below. Many of these have books translated into German and other languages, but translations into English are not common – I’ve noted where I’ve been able to find English translations.
Timo Parvela, Salla Savolainen, Taruliisa Warsta, Petra Heikkilä,
Anne Peltola (who has an excellent website in English, and one book translated into English – Boing Boing), Mervi Lindman, Markus Majaluoma, Leena Lumme, Maikki Harjanne, Virpi Talvitie, Hannu Taina, Rudolf Koivu, Linda Bondestam – as well as having a great website in English, Linda studied at Illustration at Kingston University (UK) and Katri Kirkkopelto
FInally, a few other interesting links:
My thanks to Laura Norris for help in compiling this information.
Have you or your kids read any books from Finland? If not, of all those that have been mentioned in the past two weeks on Playing by the book, which has caught your eye in particular?