This year, Finland celebrates 100 years of independence. This jubilee issue of Onnimanni explores present-day and classic Finnish literature for children and young adults.
In the editorial, Kaisa Laaksonen writes about children’s right to read in their own language both Finnish books that depict familiar surroundings and translated books that allow them to adventure into new surroundings and encounter other cultures.
Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen has interviewed writer Laila Kohonen about her children’s novel Miehuuskoe 1917 (Otava, 2017). The book draws on Kohonen’s father’s experiences during the time when Finland became independent and the civil war that followed. The book’s strength is the consistent child’s view of events. Heikkilä-Halttunen also presents other books about war.
Sara Kokkonen takes a closer look at girls’ books published during the Second World War, in which girls participate in the war effort as members of the Lotta Svärd Organization at the home front and other war zones. The novels depict harsh everyday life, romance and patriotic idealism. The books have propagandistic features and some titles were, after the war, subjected to censorship.
Jukka Laajarinne considers patriotism and its manifestations in books for children and young adults. Laajarinne argues that everyone is raised within their own country and culture, hence also into patriotism. Values are crucial, such as – from a Finnish point of view – reliability, equality, freedom of speech and the opportunity for everyone to learn, get by and find one’s place. Basic values seep into books and that is why language is at the heart of patriotism and why every child has a basic right to literature in their mother tongue.
Kirsti Manninen writes about her own relations to Finnishness and the values behind her work Suomen lasten Suomi (Otava, 2017).
Juhani Niemi presents one popular and significant Finnish children’s or YA book from each decade since Finland became independent. The selection includes picture books, books of poetry, children’s novels and young adult novels. Niemi concludes that during the past hundred years Finnish children’s literature has become increasingly internationalised, broken down barriers, breached taboos, and drawn nearer literary art for adults. Education has made room for joy and imagination.
Nine Finns of various ages, including President Sauli Niinistö and his poet wife Jenni Haukio, remember their most important reading experiences when young.
Heli Laaksonen, who writes in a South-Western Finnish dialect, ponders the effects of dialects in children’s books. She contends that children respond to dialects openly and with curiosity, so there could actually be more children’s books in dialect on offer. Dialects increase children’s awareness and tolerance of languages and awakens a love of their home language.
Emma Kaukiainen studies the use of dialects in four Finnish young adult novels from the 2000s. The books interweave dialect with the identity of one’s native place: the main characters are on the move and miss their home. Southern Finland and the way of speaking in this region is the norm and those who come from elsewhere are depicted as different, even as stereotypes. Nevertheless, the books advocate tolerance and show that it is possible to adjust to new phenomena.
Tuula Korolainen has compiled an overview of children’s and YA non-fiction books on Finnish subjects published during the past five years.
Translation Maria Lassén-Seger